Four days after the cancelled high school examinations resumed under a newly-announced timetable by the Ministry of General Education, a grade nine pupil called our office line from Mwinilunga, to find out if we had any information regarding the new examination calendar.
The boy who said lived with his elderly grandparents had no idea that his friends had actually gone back to continue writing the exams.
“I was looking for the new exam calendar, so my friends found this number on Google, and I wanted to also find out if you have the calendar or you can help me find the new dates for exams,” said the boy in a rather helpless voice, which suggested that he never wanted to miss the date, but his efforts to find the information were ending in frustration.
There was an emotional lump on the throat of the editor who delivered the devastating news to the poor child. Ironically, though, the boy did not seem too devastated himself, but perhaps the excitement was because it had not dawned on him that he was never going to be allowed to sit for the exam papers that he missed.
Indeed, that boy missed a considerable number of examination papers, not because of his playfulness, but because of the incompetence of individuals who are running the education system in Zambia. Because of a few rich pupils in urban schools who were able to bribe teachers in order to get leakages, this poor boy’s future has been messed up. His life will never be the same again.
There is an indictment on the Ministry of General Education, which was reflected in this boy’s situation. This boils down to the failure by the responsible government authorities and the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ), to prevent pupils from being disfranchised.
If ECZ and the line ministry had taken the initiative at the time of cancelling the exams, to further announce specific contact numbers and advertise platforms on which those pupils who returned home could contact the authorities to find out when they would be required to go and sit for the exams, this boy would not have missed his future. But our examination system managers expected all pupils to get the information from radio and television. Surely, how many people watch TV in rural Mwinilunga, let alone listen to radio?
Barely a week after this incident, parents from Kafue called us complaining that all pupils who sat for GEC examinations in the district had their results cancelled on grounds that they were involved in exam malpractice.
“Please help us here in Kafue. Our children wrote GEC, but their results, which have come out are blank, they are just saying ‘exam multi practice (sic)’, so please ask the minister for us. This is unfair because we spend a lot of money, but they have cancelled the results,” said an angry mother who called the News Diggers! office line.
Following up on the complaint, we called General Education Minister Honourable David Mabumba and presented the problem. The Minister simply ducked the responsibility, asking us to tell the concerned parents to take their complaints to the Examinations Council of Zambia.
“If I were them, as parents, I think nothing stops them from going to the Examinations Council of Zambia to enquire because you see, exams are written on an individual basis. And, therefore, if you have got a son or a daughter whose results will be showing malpractice, what I am supposed to do as a parent is to go to the centre and establish the level of those malpractices,” said Mabumba.
As expected, no policy-review assurance from the Minister. We asked ourselves a question: how possible is it that every school in Kafue and every GCE pupil had access to leakage? How fair is such a punishment across the board? Like the Minister rightly put it, exams are written on an individual basis; so how can the Examinations Council of Zambia nullify results for everyone?
We know that these people who are running our education system in this country take their children to international schools locally and abroad, which are never affected by such decisions, but they must have a heart. It is simply evil to condemn thousands of academically-talented children into the dungeon of failures when they did all they could to study and pass.
Dear readers, this is the same evil that we are seeing at the Copperbelt University (CBU), where authorities withdrew the recognition of medical degree programmes on grounds that the institution had no capacity to offer these courses.
According to Health Professionals Council of Zambia (HPCZ) registrar Dr Aaron Mujajati, the council had withdrawn the recognition and approval of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and the Bachelor of Dental Surgery after an inspection revealed over-enrolment of students, inadequate number of lecturers and engaging unlicensed lecturers, among other issues.
While the students were still coming to terms with this alarming news coming out of such a high profile government-owned learning institution, which is operated by the Ministry of Higher Education; another institution called the Higher Education Authority (HEA) arrived on the scene to overrule the decision of the HPCZ.
As if that was not confusing enough, we are now told that the Higher Education Authority overstepped its legal boundaries to reinstate the medical programmes at CBU because it is solely the mandate of the HPCZ to withdraw recognition of courses once the institution does not meet the required standards of medical programmes.
Frankly, we don’t care who is supposed to withdraw programmes and who can overrule decisions. Our concern is the students. Has anyone cared to think about the plight of these future doctors? Students don’t decide how many people an institution must enrol; they have no say in the recruitment process of lecturers. How can punishment be directed at them? Why not design stiff sanctions on an erring institution, which would not disadvantage the learners?
The medical students at CBU are being made to pay for the confusion in the leadership and management of State institutions. This is beyond evil. It is foolish to say the least! Our opinion is that the entire education system in Zambia needs a complete overhaul starting with the leadership.
Look at the confusion that Prof Nkandu Luo has brought at the University of Zambia. She abolishes the feared student’s union and brings in her hallucinations from abroad, in a bid to kill students’ unionism. Will this bring order among students at UNZA? Absolutely not! This is like changing the tyres to fix a car that has an ignition problem. No wonder our most prestigious university has been downgraded in the hands of a self-absorbed and egocentric professor. What a shame!