Education  coalition calls for conscious image rebuilding steps for Malawi exams

The Civil Society Education (CSEC) has welcomed the decision by the Ministry of Education and the Malawi National Examination Board (MANEB) to discontinue the 2020 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) following a massive leakage of the examination papers on the market.

 Benedicto Kondowe making his contribution-Photo Arkangel Tembo, Mana

CSEC says whilst appreciating the hurt that students and parents are going through following the cancellation of the examination, allowing the examinations to proceed in the face of such massive leakage would equally have been morally wrong and injustice to the educations ystem.

“CSEC wishes to express its deep concerns over the gross failure in leadership and management of the 2020 Malawi Schools Certificate of Examinations. We note that the recent developments leading to the cancellation of the examinations are a culmination of sustained gross commission and omissions by MANEB over the years,” says the coalition in a statement.

The statement, which has been signed by the coalition’s executive director, Benedicto Kondowe, and the board chairperson, Jennipher Mkandawire, emphasizes that key in any examinations is the credibility of the management of the examination processes, which has failed in the instance case as evidenced by the leakage of the examination papers to the students beforehand.

“It is for foregoing that we, at CSEC, welcome the cancellation of the examinations so that all students are fairly and objectively assessed. It is however imperative that further bold decisions have to be made in the face of the tainted image of the institution charged with the responsibility of managing national examinations in Malawi.

“Unlike in 1994 and 2000 when we had some examination papers cancelled, the current developments are an embarrassment to not only to the education system but also to the global community that Malawi operates in. The cost burden on tax payers for the reprocessing and administration of the examinations is unfortunately overwhelming. We believe that this could have been avoidable if the leadership at MANEB had discharged their duties well including compliance of the security protocols,” stress Kondowe and Mkandawire in the statement.

The duo has also expressed concern over the conduct of the Ministry of Education at a time that it was brought to their attention that examinations have been leaked.

They observed that the ministry was engulfed in face saving and therefore reluctant to the gravity of the matter with speed and further labelled the stories untrue without credible evidence to the contrary when some of the examination papers were trending on social media.

Kondowe and Mkandawire said the ministry and government should have done better other than peddle a version of the circumstances that could not stand the test of time.

“In view of the foregoing, we wish to propose that thorough and objective investigations should be undertaken to unearth facts about the incidence. This will help generating evidence to inform the long awaited reforms at the MANEB. The proposed investigations should be done within two weeks and it would be in the best interest of everyone that such report should be made public,” they said.

They also proposed that the management at MANEB should take full responsibility in the mess that we find ourselves in.

“To this end, concrete actions should be taken to hold them to account in the circumstances of the 2020 MSCE. We further propose that government should revisit its calendar for retaking examinations as further delay is unhelpful to the students and the academic calendar for education. We are mindful of the fact that long delay would ultimately affect the continuing form students in respect of the planning and administration of their end of fourth year examinations. In this case, we propose the fresh examinations be expeditiously processed and administered latest by end January 2021.

“That Government should put in place measures to absorb and cushion the financial burden that guardians and parents are likely going to incur because of this mess. Quick modalities should also be initiated to engage the private schools on best options of managing the likely fourth term regarding fees and schedule of events. It will be unfair to expect students and parents to pay fees at the current rates.

“That both MANEB and Ministry of Education should publicly apologise to Malawians for their failure to protect the 2020 MSCE examinations.  It is not enough to cancel the examinations, but let the leadership take full responsibility to peddling face saving defence that the examinations had not leaked before later on conceding,” added Kondowe and Mkandawire.

They further proposed that in the face of the lost public trust and confidence in MANEB, conscious image rebuilding steps should be taken as a matter of urgency.

This would include, among others, policy reforms, functional and system’s review as well as legislative review.

That the students who have been arrested following the violence that ensued the cancellation announcement should be released. Instead, government should develop with speed strategies to manage the situation and one such action is by way of offering unreserved apology.

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