MILENGE PF member of parliament Mwansa Mbulakulima says the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) has failed to give clear guidance on the grade 12 certificate clause.

And Mbulakulima said the country made a mistake in 2016 to allow the Grade 12 clause in the amended Constitution, which has now been used to segregate citizens who are better qualified than GCE certificate holders.

In an interview, Mbulakulima argued that a 1975 Cambridge certificate and ‘Standard Six’ could not be compared to today’s grade 12 certificate.

“ECZ has failed to explain, to guide the nation on this important subject of grade 12 certificate. They would have guided the way an economist or accountant would guide when it comes to indexation. You can’t say ‘K10,000 in 1975 is the same like today’ they will work out the values. Even when you want to go forward there is what we call interpolation of figures. That is what ECZ should have done. I feel as a country we have missed the point, the rationale behind the introduction of this clause or the objective. The Constitutional Court interpretation is correct in its own right. But we did not need the ConCourt’s interpretation, where we have failed is the Examination Council of Zambia. ECZ has failed to interpret and give guidance to the whole concept,” Mbulakulima lamented.

“We, in parliament, being exactly what people have in mind that we should have knowledgeable people, people who will be able to interpret issues. Now, they have the grade 12 as the main issue forgetting the diploma, degree, masters and PHD. Now who will be able to interpret matters globally? Who is in a stronger position? One with a grade 12 certificate or somebody with a masters? Why are we killing those higher qualifications? I know the argument is that how can you obtain masters or PHD without a grade 12? To me, that is a basic argument. ECZ should have given a direction. ECZ has not taken into account for example Cambridge certificates of 1976, are you telling me that the Cambridge certificate is equivalent to today’s grade 12? Not at all. The whole point has been missed.”

He said the clause needed to be revisited.

“We should have been told that’ those who passed in two, three or four subjects, today they are equivalent to this’ why are we taking a grade 12 certificate which is so basic and GCE? Who is better, the one who is rewriting three times and somebody who passed four subjects at Cambridge in 1975? Where is standard six lower and standard six upper? What is it equivalent to? Don’t tell me that those who went to standard six have all died. All these needed interpretation by the experts. Do you know that people who passed in four subjects went to university? So where are they in the equation? If they went to university and they got higher qualifications and today you can say ‘this member of parliament, this minister, this councillor or this citizen does not qualify because he passed in four subjects Cambridge. He should have passed in five or six’ that is misinterpretation because that person has got what we call accrued rights. So you can’t come and deprive him today when he had acquired those rights from inception, you are now infringing on their rights. This issue needs to be revisited,” the lawmaker said.

Mbulakulima said the clause was becoming a punitive tool.

“There are people who are going to be left out because of lack of interpretation. ConCourt’s interpretation is not adequate, it is not enough. Let us apply our minds. It was done in good faith but now what we are seeing is that it is becoming a punitive tool. I think if we all apply our minds to this matter, starting from the day Zambia got independence… I have not criticised the ConCourt’s interpretation, I have agreed with them but it doesn’t go far. It is not their job, it is either parliament or ECZ but in this case, ECZ who are the custodian of this should have helped the country to interpret. So we made a mistake in 2016, we are making the same mistake in 2021. Can we have a relook at this.” said Mbulakulima.