EDITORIAL COMMENT: A week too short for paper resit preps

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavhima announces Government's decision to have the Ordinary Level English Paper 2 rewritten next Friday following the nullification of results of the first exam after the paper was leaked last year. In his company is the ministry's permanent sectretary Dr Sylvia Utete- Masango during a press briefing in Harare- (Picture by Believe Nyakudjara)

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavhima announces Government’s decision to have the Ordinary Level English Paper 2 rewritten next Friday following the nullification of results of the first exam after the paper was leaked last year. (Picture by Believe Nyakudjara)

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has nullified the November 2017 Ordinary Level English Language Paper 2 examination and candidates will resit the paper this coming Friday.  

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavhima said the nullification was necessitated by widespread cheating by candidates. Prof Mavhima said the cheating was reported in the Press during the November 2017 examination session and subsequently validated during the marking of the candidates’ scripts.

The Minister said the decision to nullify the examination was taken after a painstaking and agonising consideration. He said the decision was necessitated by the need to maintain and preserve the integrity of the national examination system.

Prof Mavhima, however, conceded that some innocent candidates will be inconvenienced by the remedial action but, however, said the level of cheating left the Ministry with no other alternative. Minister Mavhima urged all candidates who sat for the November 2017 examination that has been nullified to report to their examination centres in order to write the examination.

Commenting on the Ministry’s decision, the Progressive Teachers Union president, Mr Takavafira Zhou said Government should seek a lasting solution to the problem of exam cheating. He said while the ministry’s decision to nullify the examination was noble, the announcement came late and will create challenges for candidates.

He said for example arrangements have to be made to accommodate candidates at boarding schools. Mr Zhou said parents have been given just a week to raise money to enable their children to travel to the different exam centres which is a big challenge given the prevailing economic situation.

He said some of the affected candidates are outside the country and are supposed to make travel arrangements to be in the country before Friday. We totally support the Ministry’s efforts to maintain and preserve the integrity of the national examination system.

At the moment our graduates from universities and other tertiary institutions are sought after the world over because of the integrity of our examination system and we can therefore not afford to compromise it.

We totally agree with Mr Zhou that the Ministry took too long to make a decision and as such the remedial action will inconvenience many students especially those outside the country who might fail to make it. A week is just too short even for local parents who have to raise the required money for travel and other expenses.

The Ministry should seriously consider moving the date to allow students at least two weeks to prepare for the exam. It will be very unfair if some of the students outside the country fail to make it on Friday.

The exam cannot be allowed to stand given the widespread cheating that was validated during the marking of the exam scripts. It is for this reason that we support the Ministry’s decision to nullify the exam but the Ministry should give candidates ample time to prepare or travel to enable all the candidates to write the exam.

The cheating was as a result of the leakage of the exam paper and it is our fervent hope that the Ministry, working closely with the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), has taken measures to plug all loopholes to avoid a similar occurrence in future.

Exam papers are security documents and as such should be handled by people qualified to handle such documents. The whole chain from production of question papers to the exam centres should not allow room for leakages. We want to once again appeal to the Ministry to allow candidates at least two weeks to prepare to retake the exam.

 

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