The Sunday News
INDIVIDUALS convicted of leaking public examination question papers risk spending nine years in prison, while learners found guilty of the same offence will have their results nullified, under new regulations to curb cheating.
The penalties are part of measures introduced by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) to prevent exam paper leakages ahead of commencement of public examinations tomorrow, when Grade Seven learners sit their first test.
Ordinary and Advanced Level learners will begin sitting practical examinations early next month.
Previously, those found guilty of similar offences faced up to a year in jail.
However, the courts prescribed community service for most culprits.
Zimsec board chairperson Professor Eddie Mwenje said the new regulations will be gazetted soon.
“We have been working on new regulations meant to curb leakages of the question papers,” he said.
“We have realised that there are individuals who are taking advantage of the current regulations and making money out of the leakages.
“So, with the help of the Attorney-General, we drafted new regulations that impose stiffer penalties, and they will be gazetted soon.”
In a separate interview, Zimsec public relations manager Ms Nicky Dlamini said the new regulations will deter would-be offenders.
“Zimsec processes are already in motion for the upcoming examinations.
“Grade Seven exams start on September 25, and O and A Level on November 16,” she said.
“Taking a leaf from previous sessions, Zimsec has made changes and advancements to certain processes to try and curb examination malpractices and ensure examination security.
“Integrity systems cannot be fully divulged at this stage as this would defeat the purpose of them being secure.
“Anyone caught with Zimsec papers this time around is given a nine-year prison sentence and there is no community service, because some people were taking advantage of the light sentences imposed by the courts, and that is why we are introducing stiffer penalties.
“They are charged under the Zimsec Act.”
Zimsec will also nullify results of candidates found in possession of question papers prior to the examination and those found to have had pre-access to examination papers. The same action will also be taken for candidates found to have distributed exam papers prior to the tests.
They will only be allowed to write their exams “after four examination sessions”.
New security measures have, however, been introduced to safeguard question papers and answer transcripts during transportation.
Educationist Professor Caiphas Nziramasanga said there was a need for transparency from all stakeholders.
“It appears exam leaking will not end as long as the ‘corrupt mindset’ continues in our education system,” he said.
“Honesty and transparency are needed from top to bottom, that is, from the person who types, prints, proof-reads and distributes the examination question papers to the person who sits the exam.”
Last year, 11 exam papers leaked.
More than 100 people were convicted for having pre-access to the papers.
Among the convicted were school headmasters, teachers, police officers and learners.