MANY parents whose children are writing their Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) exams dread this time of the year. So do the children themselves as teachers who will be marking the tests always come up with all sorts of demands, some justifiable though.

This time around, the teachers are asking Zimsec to introduce “contracts with teachers specifically for invigilation ... (to) establish a clear understanding of the expectations and the responsibilities involved in this role”.

“This will help ensure that teachers are adequately compensated for their extra efforts and time dedicated to invigilating exams. Moreover, having a formal agreement in place will provide a legal framework that protects both parties’ rights and obligations,” says the Amalgamated Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe.

Other teacher unions are singing the same tune. This is a sure sign that these end-of-year examinations will again be written under a heavy cloud which will give parents and pupils sleepless nights.

The Primary and Secondary Education ministry has since made its position clear on the teachers’ latest demands, a position which, unfortunately, does not make things any better.

The Education ministry’s spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro said it is “part of the teachers’ job description to invigilate from the Public Service Commission point of view. So briefly, it is part of their role to invigilate”.

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In other words this is a stalemate, a scenario we, as a nation, can ill afford.

While it may sound logically correct that invigilation is part of the teachers’ roles, invigilating national examinations should be treated differently from invigilating localised tests at different schools. This is a task which should, indeed, come with contracts which specifically lay out the expectations and responsibilities involved.

This is important for many reasons, among them being that it will help stem such challenges as cheating in examinations, a scourge which has perennially marred the credibility of our national examinations.

If invigilating contracts are signed between teachers and Zimsec, it will give serious weight to the examinations. It, therefore, means Zimsec and government should not dismiss the teachers’ demands because if anything untoward happens during these examinations the teachers cannot be held accountable.

And, as some of the teacher unions have pointed out that their members are not employed by Zimsec, it makes sense for Zimsec to sign contracts with the teachers to protect its interests because from what the teachers are saying, the relationship between Zimsec and the teachers is too vague and open to contestation.

This scenario can easily turn the national examinations into one huge farce if teachers invigilate under duress.