ABIGAIL CHIYENI, Kitwe
A FEW days ago, police on the Copperbelt arrested seven persons in Chingola in connection with the theft of this yearâ€™s grade nine examination papers which were in transit to North-Western Province.
Copperbelt commissioner of police Charity Katanga said 11 sachet kits and four grade nine examination papers were recovered from the suspects that included pupils from Chananyama, Chiwempala and Sunrise Secondary Schools in Chingola.
Criminals broke into the containerised truck that was ferrying examination papers for the grade nine examinations to Solwezi.
This latest case came a few weeks after the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) had implored the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) and the Ministry of General Education to ensure that there are no malpractices during this yearâ€™s examinations.
NAQEZ executive director Aaron Chansa observed that Zambia had the highest number of examination leakages in the southern African region.
He noted that despite intensified sensitisation on the grave effects of the scourge, the vice had continued to increase especially at grade nine level.
â€œIt is regrettable that currently Zambia has the highest number of examination leakages in the region. While we have previously sensitised learners and members of the public on the grave effects of this scourge, unfortunately examination leakages have continued to increase. This must change this year,â€ Mr Chansa said.
â€œThese examinations are not just annual academic events but are very important activities in the lives of learners, parents and society as a whole. They are used as major assessment tools.
â€œWe passionately call upon the Examinations Council of Zambia and the Ministry of General Education to put in place practical measures aimed at eradicating this retrogressive phenomenon. If examination leakages continue, academic certificates will totally lose credibility; and this would be dangerous for Zambia.
â€œWe want to strongly encourage all learners writing examinations to just study hard, thatâ€™s the best leakage one can ever get. There is also need for all our teachers to put in their best in preparing the pupils for exams.â€
The extent to which some people are prepared to go in order to pass an exam is worrying in certain cases.
And it is not just pupils but teachers as well.
For instance, in November last year, three teachers and a headmaster were arrested in Petauke district in Eastern Province for allegedly tampering with grade nine examination papers.
The four were arrested following an impromptu visit by the office of the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS), which revealed some malpractice.
The teachers were reported to have four different locks and keys but when officers from the DEBSâ€™ office inspected the school, they discovered that all examination papers for grade nine had been tampered with and some were missing.
The teachers were picked up after authorities from the DEBS discovered that no sign of break-in was found as claimed by the suspects. Police believed that the teachers, who each had four different keys to the strongroom where the examinations papers were kept, could have connived to steal and leak the papers.
The suspects were arrested because none of the four locks were tampered with, meaning they worked together and stole the examination papers.
Cases of teacher involvement in examination malpractices are not new or isolated.
It is such cases that prompted Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia (BETUZ) Copperbelt provincial secretary Christopher Simukonda to issue a warning to teachers involved in exam malpractices.
Mr Simukonda says the union will not represent any teacher that would be found wanting and urged parents and guardians to encourage their pupils to just study hard.
â€œAs a union, we want to state that the involvement of teachers in examination malpractices can only tarnish the image of the teaching profession and erode the confidence that people have in the education system,â€ Mr Simukonda says.
Copperbelt University vice-chancellor Naison Ngoma strongly denounces the use of short cuts by students to acquire education qualifications.
Prof Ngoma says the growing trend of cheating during examinations and when doing assignments, continuous assessments, and research projects during examinations has compromised the quality of graduates.
â€œStudents should desist from employing shortcuts in their studies. Avoid plagiarism, work for and earn your certificates, diplomas and degrees through hard work and commitment,â€ he says.
He advises students at different levels of education to desist from employing underhand methods to acquire education qualifications for the country to have quality graduates.
Prof Ngoma says students pursuing programmes in various tertiary institutions must have confidence in their abilities and avoid cheating during examinations.
He further says the remedy to success in any field of study lies in the full preparedness of the student during the course of study, and any student that takes part in examination malpractice devalues themselves.
Prof Ngoma says the labour market is yearning for a positive contribution to the countryâ€™s socio-economic development.
Indeed, the use of underhand methods to acquire tertiary education among some students continues to compromise the quality of graduates entering the labour market, thus posing a huge threat to the countryâ€™s socio-economic development.
The use of examination malpractice has countless effects on students and the nation at large.
People in the habit of indulging in such acts lack confidence and usually fail to deliver to the satisfaction of their employers when given their desired jobs while some end up being expelled and jailed.
It also instils laziness in students because the effect of having everything done for them gets deeply rooted in them to the detriment of the country that needs their services to address various challenges affecting the citizens.
ABIGAIL CHIYENI, Kitwe