The nation is still trying to come to terms with the decision by the Minister of General Education to postpone school examinations at all levels because of examination paper leakages. This comes not long after National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) Executive Director Aaron Chansa announced that our country has the highest number of examination leakages in the southern African region.

Public opinion may be divided on whether Minister David Mabumba made the right decision or not, but this doesn’t change the fact that this matter does not only speak volumes about the eroded quality and credibility of Zambian education, but also imposes a huge inconvenience on parents, teachers and indeed the Treasury.

We fear that the position taken by the government is inconsiderate. Has anyone taken time to ask the critical questions around this subject bordering on the state of the Examinations Council of Zambia, the anguish this decision will subject parents to, the plight of majority innocent pupils who are not involved in malpractices? The ultimate question is – who must take the blame for this mess?

We do acknowledge the fact that exam leakages are partly fuelled by fear of failure, lack of confidence, laziness, and inadequate preparation and inability by learners to apply themselves to their studies. We, however, cannot heap the blame on the teachers and learners, when all along we have been incubating an examination management system of sheer incompetence and negligence.

The decision taken by the Minister is not only insensitive to the plight of the poor, but is a mere knee-jerk reaction that is not only ill-informed, but also ill-timed. The fact that Honourable Mabumba decided to cancel all grade 7, grade 9 and grade 12 exams because of one leaked subject shows that the examination management system is rotten to the core. The entire government system had nowhere to start from in investigating this matter and the best they could do was to cancel everything.

The question Honourable Mabumba should be answering is; who is to blame for exam leakages? He knows that examinations are prepared by examiners from the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ), and this institution is mandated to oversee their administration while the Zambia Police is mandated to help safeguard the documents. We don’t understand the difficulties the Minister had with putting the blame on the right people and announcing well-advised reforms to the examination management system in the country.

The government can’t allow some hard working pupils who genuinely prepared for exams to be punished by rewriting. Exams are exhausting. Exams are expensive. Preparing for exams and taking exams takes time, and time lost cannot be regained. By this act alone, you have destroyed the future of thousands of pupils who may not sit for the next exam under the same environment. Think about those pupils who are in boarding school. How are they expected to sustain their unplanned prolonged stay waiting for the next examination timetable? Who will pay for their stay? Who will feed them? Their parents or guardians are already stretched to the limits.

There are further implications that will arise from preparing new exams at all levels of the general education system. It will mess the academic calendar for 2019, and remember that there is another set of pupils who will be sitting for exams next year. It must be understood that the academic calendar has a lot of disruptions and the third term has the highest number of interruptions coupled with many holidays, which all take away valuable academic time. Many teachers fail to complete the syllabus before exams because of these interruptions.

Clean your mess, Honourable Minister of General Education. Stop this rot! We have allowed ourselves to stoop very low as a nation and this corrupting of the entire fabric of our society actually stinks and stinks very badly. We can’t be singing about examination leakages every year like a ceremony.

And we must point out also here that the political will to curb examination leakages and malpractices seems to be is eroding very quickly. We remember how firm and decisive Hon. Brian Chituwo was in 2005 when he presided over the education sector. He even vowed to resign should exam papers leak, and true to his word, no paper leaked during his tenure. That was a demonstration that it is possible to have leakage-free exams. So, why are our current leaders managing this sector failing to contain the mess?
Dear readers, it must not be surprising that the rise in exam leakages has coincided with the rise in corruption across the entire government. We know that in the post-2016 election era a policy of retiring civil servants in national interest was aggressively implemented alongside the absorption of party cadres into the civil service. This may in part be contributing to the falling standards of government services, including education standards. We insist that the buck stops with the Minister, Cabinet and all the political elite responsible for education policy and management.

We are sure that even the teacher unions are still shocked that this matter is not receiving the attention it deserves despite them flagging this up time and again. The loss of credibility of the Zambian academic qualifications is dangerous for the country and the impact is already being felt. Oxford University just downgraded Zambian universities to college status. The worst is yet to come.