The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) has declared the results of almost 5,000 Ordinary Level students null and void due to allegations of cheating during the 2022 end of year exams.
According to the state-controlled newspaper, The Herald, ZIMSEC established that 4,961 students accessed exam question papers before sitting for their exams, leading to the invalidation of their results. The cheaters made up 1.78% of the total 278,760 candidates who took the end of year exams, with an overall pass rate of 28.96%.
ZIMSEC Chairman, Eddie Mwenye, stated that those caught posting or buying question papers on WhatsApp, along with those who wrote exams for others, were arrested and taken to court. The leaked papers were mainly for mathematics and English, highlighting the need for better security measures in the country’s school examination system.
While some of the suspected cheats were caught during the exams, others were detected during the grading and review process. In accordance with the ZIMSEC Act, Section 34, the results of such candidates were nullified for the subjects in question.
ZIMSEC and school authorities have blamed each other for the leakages, with ZIMSEC alleging that the leakages occurred outside its offices and at the schools. However, one teachers’ union has attributed the leakages to poor working conditions that have driven some teachers to engage in corruption.
In one court case, a deputy headmaster and an English teacher in Tsholotsho District, Matabeleland North Province, pleaded guilty to criminal abuse of duty charges after leaking an English exam paper to selected students at their school. They were sentenced to three years in jail, with 18 months commuted to community service and the other 18 months suspended on good behavior.
Additionally, another teacher appeared in court in the same district for allegedly getting a mathematics exam question through a mobile phone and reviewing it with his students before they took the test. School administrators and staff have also been implicated in these practices in a bid to boost pass rates at their institutions, particularly at private colleges seeking to attract more students. Examination centers found to be complicit will also be deregistered, according to Mwenye.
The integrity of Zimbabwe’s school examination system has long been under siege from cheats accessing question papers before exams, and the recent actions by ZIMSEC aim to restore the credibility of the country’s education system.