The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
SCHOOLS will no longer be allowed to collect examination papers days before the examination date but will collect and return each paper to the cluster centre on the day of sitting as part of measures to tighten security and avoid leakages.
Last year, Zimbabwe examinations were rocked by leakages which resulted in candidates who sat for O-level English being assessed on one paper after Paper 2 marks were nullified. The Government responded by firing most senior officials who were heading the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council.
In an interview in Bulawayo yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the Government had to come up with a new model to maintain integrity of the local examinations.
“We have had cases where if the paper is brought to the school prior to the date of writing, there were some breaches and now in order to increase the security of our examinations we have said those papers must be picked on the day on which the examination will be written except in very extreme cases where the distance between the cluster centre and the school is prohibitive in making sure that the exam starts in time, but there are some other security measures that can be put in such cases,” he said.
Pupils will start writing end of year public examinations next month. Prof Mavima added that the written scripts will also be returned to the cluster centre on the same day. In the case of two examinations being written on the same day, Prof Mavima said schools heads would pick up the second session paper when returning the scripts of the paper written in the morning. He also said those found breaching examination regulations will now face jail time.
“We are in the process of changing the act to make examinations breach a very serious offence that attracts mandatory jail time. We have done a complete audit of the whole examination value chain and we currently have a consultant working on it and more measures will be put in place in order to ensure we don’t have any more breaches,” he said.
Prof Mavima said the Government has tabled long term measures to protect the examinations.
“These include the establishment of our own Zimsec printing press in Norton, so the majority of papers are now going to be printed in house. We also discovered that some of breaches emanated from the printers.”
Turing to the issue of the teacher compliment, Prof Mavima said the country was facing a deficit of 12000 teachers.
“We must have a complement of 130 000 and we currently have about 122 000 in post which leaves between 10 000 and 12 000. So that is the number that will bring us to optimality as far as teachers are concerned. But everyday we have new schools being established. We are also constructing schools aggressively as a ministry and we also have community schools that are being built by local authorities and the communities themselves. The number of teachers that we need continues to increase as we build more schools so today we many have a shortfall of 12 000 but tomorrow it will be a completely different number,” he said.
Prof Mavima said there were 1 500 satellite schools in resettlement areas that needed to be formalised into functional schools.
In urban areas, he said there are about 600 schools that needed to be established in order to decongest the existing schools, some that have resorted to hot seating to accommodate more pupils.
“I was in Chegutu yesterday and our learners are learning in tobacco grading sheds at a former commercial farm and the sheds are used as classrooms. Fortunately the private castor came in to help the local authority to build a good school. So we are going through all those schools to formalise them and make them modern,” he said.
Added Prof Mavima: “We estimated in 2015 that we needed 2 056 schools but we realised that we have been building schools as central Government but also communities have done the same. Looking at what we have done and the continuous growth of population we still need about 2 000 schools.”
He also said Government was working on regularising the appointment of heads at schools that are run by acting heads.
“We have a continuous process of interviewing people for those positions (headmasters) and at every moment we are filling those positions, we want a situation where schools are run by a substantive head because they have been interviewed and subjected to certain standards,” he added.