MANEB should choose the lesser evil

Recently Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB) officials have been quoted in the press explaining their positions on allegations that the 2012 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations leaked.

MANEB’s Director of Research and Tests Development, Gerald Chiunda, is reported to have said, “The allegations of massive leakage were serious enough to warrant serious investigations. We need to learn what happened and action to be taken will depend on the gravity of the problem.”

Again the newly appointed MANEB Executive Director, Roy Hauya, was also quoted in one of the weekend papers as saying: “The decision to re-administer national examinations depends on the magnitude of leakage and other factors. Such a decision can only be arrived at where all mechanisms for addressing investigated malpractices at assessment stage are inadequate to maintain the integrity of the whole examinations and safeguard the majority of candidates who are innocent.”

Hauya also explained that the Malawi Police Service arrested 20 candidates, three police officer and three teachers who were allegedly involved in the malpractice.

These statements coming from the old capital city give me indication that the 2012 (MSCE) examinations indeed leaked and MANEB in conjunction with the Ministry of Education Science and Technology should act quickly in order to remove the anxiety that has so far engulfed all the stakeholders involved with examination issues.

Students are in dilemma whether they will have to re-write the examinations or not. IF the examinations heavily leaked and candidates will have to re-write then it is very unfortunate. When they (2012 MSCE candidates) think about how they worked hard in order to prepare for the examinations, I am sure they spend sleepless nights. Were their efforts in vain? All of us have been students and we are fully aware of what is involved in examination preparations.

We are also aware of the relief that comes after finishing the examination. All the fever, pressure, anxiety and work associated with examinations, are things which must be forgotten once the exam is written. But to be told that you are going to re-write the same examination just because someone somewhere had seen the questions, it is a great torture by the examining board to innocent student who had to make maximum use of the limited resources available to him/her at a remote school like Jumbi or mountainous Luhono Community Day Secondary School.

Apart from students, parents are also worried whether they will have to spend extra Kwachas to finance their ex-form four children to go back to school. With the devaluation of the Malawi currency, parents or guardians whose children will have to re-write the ‘leaked 2012
MSCE’ are also worried with the allegations of massive leakage of examinations.

Candidates will have to be in schools for a minimum of eight weeks, if they are to retake the exam. Schools will charge the students and who knows how much will be paid especially for those in private schools where fees has already been accordingly adjusted to match the devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha.

MANEB just like the Ministry of Education Science and Technology are also worried. It’s not easy to re-administer the examination. They will have to source money from tax payers to pay the printer in United Kingdom, transporters, supervisors, invigilators, among others. All in all what I am saying is that re-administering examinations is so expensive. Time again is not there to do the whole exercise thoroughly without cutting corners. This may call for squeezing of other activities on the MANEB calendar. Again in the absence of the results of investigations, what surety is there that the exam will not leak again?

On the other hand, if indeed it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was heavy leakage, and MANEB does not re-administer the examination, the integrity of the whole examination board is at stake. People will lose the tattered trust they have in MANEB. I am saying tattered trust because other institutions such as University of Malawi (UNIMA) if they had total trust in MANEB, there would be no such a thing as university entrance examinations.

MANEB has the responsibility to safeguard its integrity. The certificates that it is to offer to the successful 2012 MSCE candidates will attract scornful eyes of prospective employers. The newly appointed Roy Hauya must prove that he is worthy the salt. His image will be dented possibly more than his predecessor, Matthews Matemba. Politically the Joyce Banda government will attract venom from opposition figures, who will likely score a political mark. The Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) will also make meaningful noise on this. All in all the image of the board, government, the certificates and senior government officials including the president will suffer irreparable damage.

So, if indeed it is proved that there was massive leakage of the examination, which is good: to re-administer the 2012 MSCE or not? There is nothing that is good here. But if I were at the helm of MANEB and Ministry of Education Science and Technology I would seriously consider the massive allegations of the leakage and choose the lesser evil.

Yes, the lesser evil is to protect the image of the board itself, of the certificates the board is going to give to the 2012 MSCE candidates and the government in general. Re-administering MSCE examination will not be the first time to be done in the history of the nation. It also happened in 2007. But MANEB must wake up and tighten security in this world where everything is technologically advanced.

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