POLICE in Bulawayo have launched investigations into the suspected mysterious disappearance of public examination papers for six Ordinary Level subjects destined for Sijawuke Secondary School in Bubi district over the weekend.
Report by Nduduzo Tshuma, Staff Reporter
The “O” Level question papers reportedly missing — English, Mathematics, Geography, Ndebele, Integrated Science and Commerce — are for the November 2012 public examinations. Matabeleland North provincial education director Boitathelo Mnguni yesterday confirmed the report, but declined to give more details, saying she was currently out of the province on official business.
“I heard that there were some papers that were lost, but I am in Harare right now so I do not have the latest information and I do not know how many subjects were affected,” she said.
“However, we are still tracing the papers. Maybe they got misplaced, so we do not want to rush into saying things that will cause unnecessary panic. If you could contact me maybe tomorrow, I will have accurate information.”
Mnguni also confirmed that the matter had been reported to the police to expedite investigations.
Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said the papers went missing after the school’s acting headmaster, Panganai Zimhuno, collected them from the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) regional office in Bulawayo on Friday and loaded them into a commuter omnibus trailer on his way back to the school the following day.
“We confirm that we received a report that some papers for the November examinations went missing or were stolen. The examination papers were in the custody of the acting headmaster, Panganai Zimhuno, of Sijawuke Secondary School in Bubi,” Moyo said.
“Investigations into the matter are underway and we are appealing to members of the public with information that could lead to the recovery of the papers to approach the local police station.”
According to sources at the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture after collecting the examination papers from Zimsec offices at around 3pm, Zimhuno spent the night in Bulawayo and loaded them into a Bubi-bound kombi the following day.
“He took the exam papers to his home in Bulawayo and slept there before going to board a kombi to the school the following morning. The box containing the exam papers was put inside the kombi’s trailer. The kombi however left Bulawayo in the afternoon,” the source said.
“Along the way, Zimhuno stopped the vehicle after travelling between 20 and 30 kilometres to check the box containing the examination papers that was placed in the trailer and it was no longer there.”
But, the Education ministry officials only reported the matter to the police on Monday.
This is not the first time, Zimsec public examination papers have vanished under mysterious circumstances, leading to cancellation of the examinations for the affected subjects with students forced to re-sit the examinations.
The development has seen the students failing to apply to polytechnics and teachers’ colleges on time.
Zimsec recently withheld June O-Level Mathematics results for 126 candidates at a private college in Harare on suspicion that the paper could have leaked.
Leakages and disruption of examination papers became common a few years ago after Zimsec took over control of all national public examinations.
In 2001, then Education minister Edmund Garwe resigned his post and later allegedly committed suicide after his child was implicated in an examination leakage scam.
In 2005, Zimsec withheld O-Level Chemistry results for candidates at Gokomere High School following suspicions that a teacher had leaked the paper.
The teacher taught his class exactly what was in the Zimsec Chemistry examination the day before the examination.
This led to his class reproducing answers, which were almost similar.
In 2006, a Hurungwe headmaster Makisi Jimu of Dandawa Secondary School in Magunje, lost three O’Level examination papers to a stranger he had given a lift on his way from collecting the exam papers.
In 2009, thieves allegedly broke into Maxim Primary School in Matabeleland North and stole Zimsec Grade 7 General and Mathematics examination papers, answer sheets and stationery.
Last year, due to strikes by markers protesting against poor salaries, dates for examinations had to be changed on several occasions.
In addition to lack of resources, some students have been getting results for subjects they did not write.
While things seemed to have improved a great deal due to government effort and donor assistance, controversy seems to follow Zimsec and people are now questioning whether it is capable of running smooth exams.
Education minister David Coltart was at one time quoted as saying: “Objectively we have seen a huge improvement in Zimsec as compared to the past two years. I don’t argue that Zimsec is perfect. A lot needs to be done to re-establish public confidence and it’s a process. At the moment we have a strong board and a financial team that has brought a lot of financial discipline. Zimsec will become a centre of excellence in the region.”