EXAM LEAKS ENIGMA

Daily Nation Newspaper - - HOME NEWS -

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.

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