Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) general secretary Newman Bubala says recurring exam leakages have the potential to propel undeserving students who may attain qualifications they did not work hard for.
And Bubala ZNUT fears that the suspension of exams will largely affect the school calendar and stretch pupils.
Last week, General Education Minister David Mabumba suspended the grade seven, nine and 12 examination papers, pending a full investigation into leaked papers that were splashed all over social media ahead of the exam date last Tuesday.
In an interview, Bubala expressed concern that continued exam leakages would undermine genuine, deserving students from advancing with their studies at the expense of those pupils that end up benefiting from the malpractice.
“The key players in the education system [who] are the Ministry of Education, the labour movement, the Examination Council of Zambia, and the community at large need to rise to the occasion and serve the education system. What has happened is not that there is anything new, but it’s at the levels it has gone, it has now reached at a level where things (question papers) are now thrown on social media and even with answers. An exam is a national exam meaning that a child in Shangombo, Mwinilunga, in Sinazeze, Kashikishi or where ever are writing the same exam at the same time. Now, when you reach a point where somebody can get answers in advance in a country where we believe that space is by performance, we are going to have a situation where somebody is really ready for the exam but doesn’t make it because the one who has qualified is the one who had leakages and doesn’t even know what an exam is all about,” Bubala said.
He pointed out that this exam suspension period needed to be used to identify the sources of the leakages and to seal all the loopholes, adding that as long as the Examination Council of Zambia (ECZ) did not seal the loopholes for examination leakages, the trend would continue.
“The closing of this period of suspension period, this is a point where the Examination Council, ourselves and everyone should think about how to correct this situation? How do we avoid these leakages? And where is the source of those leakages so that by the time this suspension is lifted, all the loopholes, all the openings, which are happening to make somebody access this should be closed,” Bubala advised.
“Therefore, between now and the time of re-sitting, and definitely exams will come back, but they should come with all sealed processes. Now our worry is that what is the problem? Is there something we are not doing right? Even in Namibia, there are no leakages [but] what is wrong with us? Is there something we are not doing right with our system? I believe it’s the owners of the exam who are supposed to tell us, the Examination Council of Zambia. Their role is to prepare the exam, to secure the exams up to the point of delivery. They have put measures in place from the point of printing to the strong room where they have kept them under lock and key with different keys kept by different people. And then from the point where they are about to be delivered, there are policemen protecting those papers up to the school where again they are going to a strong rooms. [On] the day of writing, there keys under three different people open and take them.”
And Bubala said the suspension of exams would largely affect the school calendar.
“These exams will be re-written [but] the only point, which is there is that, the calendar for next year might be affected, but there must be an adjustment process between now and January. So, in this waiting time, you see there is no need of setting another exam, which again will be leaked. So, let them seal all the loopholes. Secondly, all the children who wanted to write will have to wait and in their waiting time, the calendar will be affected and the children will be over-stretched,” said Bubala, who further called for stiffer punishment for offenders.