Government urged to make education a priority

Phillipa Jaja

Former Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, Senator David Coltart says government should prioritise the education sector to put an end to examination paper leakages.

In an interview with this publication, Senator Coltart said education should be at the top of the budget list.

“Education has to be made the country’s budget priority. To adequately fund education, we need to cut back on spending and other sectors particularly the size of the cabinet and the security sector but of course that will not happen under the current regime but that is what needs to be done.”

He added that integrity was also crucial as it provided balance and checks necessary to ground the education system.

“The main security feature is to have people of the highest possible integrity to run the system and to ensure that those people are adequately paid. The education system is completely being undermined because teachers and people right across the education sector are being underpaid and that opens up the entire system to this kind of corruption and abuse.”

He said examination paper leakages were undermining the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) board’s credibility at tertiary institutions.

“Leakages are nothing new but exceptionally serious and other examination systems such as Cambridge have not had the same level of leakages, if, at all so it is a very serious indictment on Zimsec…. It means universities can have less confidence whether exam marks are a true reflection of a student’s ability. And so the more leakages you have the less confidence universities and other institutions will have in the country’s education system.”

His remarks tally with the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou who has called for the dissolution  of the board as a panacea to ending examination leakages.

“The board has lost credibility and must be dissolved and replaced by a new dynamic and versatile board that can nurture the good standing of an examination board. It must comprise people of high standing, credibility and integrity appointed on merit rather than political merit,” he said.

He dismissed intervention measures proposed by Zimsec to stop the leakages saying they were ineffective.

“Such interventions were outlined before and nothing changed. Note that they suggested doing other things that fall short of reforming Zimsec and they give a false impression that leakages are coming from outside Zimsec when they are mostly an inside job.”

Parents interviewed concurred, saying that ZIMSEC officials should be adequately remunerated so that the leakages were curbed.

 “The main reason behind leakages is money. Even if a new board is put in place, money shall be used to lure them like the previous underpaid personnel. Therefore, it is my proposition that government is better off increasing school fees and making education expensive if it means paying these officials sufficient money so they will not be tempted to sell away examination papers,” said Tribe Chigwida of Harare.

Another parent, Olivia Chikunichawa said ZIMSEC was doing a disfavour to honest students and compromising their educational progress.

“Zimsec is short-changing honest candidates who meticulously study only to be tainted with a few that have access to examination papers. This board is promoting cheating and so it should be done away with so that a spirit of hard work thrives amongst learners,” weighed in Chikunichawa.

According to a local daily, police arrested over 100 learners accused of sharing a leaked Ordinary Level Mathematics Paper One, which they sat a fortnight ago, with the authorities now considering amendment of the ZIMSEC Act to introduce stiffer penalties for cheats.

TWO learners at Mufakose High1 have since appeared in court after they had accessed the Mathematics Paper 1 exam paper before the examinations started.

The two are out on ZWL$ 15 000 bail each and will appear again in court on November 28.

The police and school heads have all blamed ZIMSEC for leakages further debasing the country’s main examination board.

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