ACCORDING to former US president John F Kennedy: “If any nation does not care for the many that are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Zimbabwe’s schools examination body, Zimsec used to have world class examiners trained by the University of Cambridge local examinations syndicate.
One of the side effects of localising examinations was the reduction of adequate funding from the time Zimsec was instituted in 1995. This problem has had a cumulative effect on the current crisis where Zimsec is suffering from operational paralysis. Most of the staff in the critical departments have left the profession or the country altogether —— some of whom are now marking for Cambridge itself.
The current crisis is as a result of the lackadaisical approach of the government towards Zimsec. It appears Zimsec does not enjoy the priority status it deserves, or that probably the government has far too many priorities that overshadow the demands of Zimsec.
In Zimsec’s history 2008 has been the worst year ever. For instance, the June 2008 examination results which were normally scheduled for August 2008, only came out in May 2009 —— one year later. The November 2008 examination results came out in June 2009.
As a result Zimsec is fast losing credibility. More and more parents are registering their children with Cambridge, beside those in the private schools. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai needs to consider the following:
- The government of Zimbabwe should create a Social Dimensions Fund from which coupons should be drawn to pay examination fees for the children of needy families.
- Staff at Zimsec and examiners should be well remunerated at competitive rates of remuneration, so as to curb and possibly reverse the mass exodus trend of these key personnel. Mechanisms should be put in place such that these examiners are paid at the time they just finish marking.
- Â Examination materials should be moved from one place to another under armed escort if possible.
- Unless teachers are competitively remunerated and motivated, their product —— the candidate —— will be found wanting. Some non-financial benefits should be built into their conditions of service. We cannot expect high quality candidates if teachers continue to be de-motivated and continue looking for greener pastures.
- Â The Zimsec Act should be revisited urgently. Given that the gist of the problems that Zimsec is facing are caused by too much political interference and its lack of autonomy in decision-making —— particularly as the question of examination fees and operational costs —— it has become imperative to recommend that Zimsec be given the autonomy it deserves.
The cases and instances given above militate strongly against a centrally controlled Zimsec. In short, Zimsec should be allowed to determine its examination fees at fair and reasonable rates to enable it to be run efficiently.
The overall objective is to enable Zimsec to run its programmes timeously including releasing results at targeted dates, conducive to students moving to the next stages of their education without delay.