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Zimsec standoff leaves students, varsities in limbo

Zimsec spokesperson Nicholette Dlamini yesterday blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for causing a shift in the normal calendar of the marking and release of the examination results.

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA A STANDOFF between markers and the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) has resulted in the examination board failing to release the 2021 Ordinary and Advanced Level results in time.

In previous years, Zimsec would release results in February, giving prospective “A” Level pupils time to enrol and learn for at least a month.

However, the first term ends on Thursday, with both “O” and “A” Level results for 2021 yet to be released, affecting for high schools and universities plans.

Scores of markers boycotted marking of examinations midway after Zimsec failed to pay agreed allowances.

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The delay in releasing the results has resulted in “O” Level pupils failing to enrol for Form 5 classes for the first term.

It has also seen some pupils awaiting “A” Level results failing to enrol with tertiary institutions such as the Zimbabwe Open University during the March intake window, while others like the Midlands State University have been forced to defer their intakes.

Zimsec spokesperson Nicholette Dlamini blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for causing a shift in the normal calendar of the marking and release of the examination results.

She said the board would release the results “soon”, but failed to provide the exact date.

“The year 2019 was the last year we had the normal school year. This is 2022 that we are now having a normal school year. If you look at 2021, the first term started in March and last year, the results came on April 23 and we haven’t reached the date,” Dlamini said.

“Our examinations were written last year. They started in December and they finished on January 31, so according to the cycle and the timeline, we have not yet reached that. The results will be released soon.”

But teacher unions said Zimsec’s explanation was not convincing, adding that this added to the chaos bedevilling the education sector.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou said the disruption of the marking process after examiners went on strike in a dispute over allowances in February compromised the credibility of the final results.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou

Zimsec markers downed tools accusing the examinations body of failing to honour its pledge to pay them US$25 per day for those staying out of residence and US$12 per day for those in residence.

“Markers went on strike amid the marking process and it took longer for the few remaining makers to complete the process. And time was moving,” Zhou said.

“Another thing, Zimsec lost a number of experienced markers who did not turn up because they were incapacitated. This did not only contribute to the delay of the results, but will also compromise the quality of the results to be released.”

Zimbabwe Teachers Association secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said the introduction of a new curriculum, in particular the continuous assessment learning activities (Cala), had contributed to the delay in the release of the results.

“The introduction of the Cala is a challenge to both learners and teachers and is also affecting the whole process of how the examinations are marked and how they are released because they are a new aspect,” Taderera said.

In a latest review of the curriculum, PTUZ showed that the syllabus was facing a number of challenges in implementation because of inadequate funding and lack of understanding by both teachers and learners.

The curriculum, which was introduced in 2017, has projects and tasks to be completed by students in some subjects and has been blamed for creating avenues for corruption in the education sector, with teachers often demanding payment to help pupils with their work.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said Zimsec was reeling “under mismanagement and underfunding”.

Obert Masaraure

“The institution has not been spared of the rot that has seized all State institutions. The disruption of marking because of a serious labour dispute delayed the process.  The morale among personnel at Zimsec is at an all-time low and they are working at a slower pace than expected,” he said.

Zimbabwe National Students Union president Lennox Machoko added: “Given the circumstances where the government has reverted to the normal calendar, it means that the universities and colleges will not have ample time to do the whole application selection process since the results have been delayed.”

Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said the ministry had a “robust catch-up strategy” when contacted for comment.

“As soon as they are enrolled, they will hit the ground running,” he said.

  • Follow Miriam on Twitter @FloMangwaya

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