EXAM LEAKS ENIGMA
NEW dates have been set for school examinations that were suspended last week because of paper leaks but a permanent solution to this vexatious perennial problem still remains elusive. The examinations were suspended by the State last week after Grade 9 maths paper two was leaked and widely circulated on social media. The examinations, according to Minister of General Education David Mabumba, will now resume today while investigations to establish the source of the leaks continue. Many parents, especially those with children in boarding schools and weekly boarding have breathed a sigh of relief as they would now not incur additional costs that would have arisen from further exam delays. But while this news maybe heart-warming to parents and the students, the problem of frequent occurrences of exam paper leaks which has become quite a common phenomenon in the country, is clearly far from over. No single year has gone by without reports of leakages despite stringent measures to seal loopholes being mooted. Some teachers and pupils have in the past been arrested and in some cases punished or even thrown behind bars but the vice has still persisted. Social media has not helped matters either and has instead exacerbated the problem. But the sooner a permanent solution is found the better before the examination system completely loses credibility. In past years, some critics and observers heaped the blame on the Examinations Council of Zambia (EZC) being the major custodians of the examination system. But the institution vehemently rejects the claim and instead passes the buck to school authorities and teachers. Some citizens, teachers’ unions and other stakeholders are even baying for the blood of senior ECZ officials, insisting there must be a total shakeup of management at the institution. But in the absence of concrete evidence pointing to the source of the leaks, examination malpractices will persist and so will the blame game, causing the nation to move in circles as the case has been. But still, who is the mastermind behind the exam leaks, and at which stage do the papers leak? Are some ECZ officials really involved or is it that exam papers are tampered with at respective schools once they are delivered? This and many other questions beg for serious answers. When Mr Mabumba announced the new dates for the school exams at a media briefing, he observed that preliminary investigations into Grade 9 maths paper leaks indicate that the papers were tampered with in a number of schools in some provinces. Could it be that school authorities have been behind the leaks all this while? Whatever the answer, the leaks are a thorn in the side of Government and the nation as a whole and need to be stopped once and for all. It is highly likely that criminals behind the leaks have formed some sort of a syndicate and are eager to continue disrupting the exams no matter the measures put in place. These crooks must be sniffed out urgently and unceremoniously flushed out of the system. But the government should not end there, it should go a step further and blacklisted the culprits to serve as a deterrent to others. Such people don’t deserve to serve in any public office. Some years back, the nation, we assured that exam loopholes had been sealed but as this stand, it appears they were not completely sealed after all. So unless, the source of the leaks is established and loopholes thoroughly sealed, the problem is here to stay. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the solution to this conundrum remains elusive considering that the Ministry of Education has been grappling with the problem for a long time now but to no avail. While acknowledging that this problem is not unique to Zambia, it is apparent that the scourge has hit alarming proportions in this country. In India, the government through the Central Board of Secondary Education has somehow been able to solve this problem. They have done this by partnering with the tech giant Microsoft and have developed an innovative encrypted security solution which makes examination papers leak proof for schools across India. We urge ECZ to find out more about this encryption solution and establish if it can work here and if so how best it can be replicated to suit the local environment.