Prof Makala Lilemba
The issue of leaking and rigging examination question papers is global and not confined to the Namibian education system. In countries like the United Kingdom and France, offenders of this crime end up in courts, while in Japan the culprits resign voluntarily. For some time in Ghana, teachers were required to set ten question papers for the same subject because of the high possibility of leakages.
In Cameroon, daughters and sons of high-ranking officials and ministers opened question papers at home before they were brought to other students to write and then under the supervision of the police.
Namibia has not reached such stage of a large scale of leaking and rigging of examination papers, but the current pace, if not nipped in the bud, may be out of proportion. Before independence, wide-scale leakages were not common, as they were put under the lid. Causes for leaking and rigging of examination marks could many, of which the following could suffice.
In most cases, the initiators of leakages are the examiners of the subject in question. Students crave for scope and in the process, the teacher if he or she is an examiner may give the scope of the examination paper. This is mostly done to enable students to concentrate on the set questions and avoid unnecessary topics. This is equally dangerous as this limits the students’ knowledge base and focus on the given scope. At the same time, the anticipated questions may not appear in the examination for one reason of omission or another.
The workers running and printing the question papers if not monitored may also leak the scripts for monetary gains, as they sell the scripts to students.
Students have challenges of not having teachers and enough textbooks for the subjects to be written that academic year. In a situation where eighty students share one textbook, it is obvious that students may not be ready for the examination. In many subjects, students end the year without being taught because there are no teachers to handle some subjects.
In an education system, where higher marks are the entry criteria to Unam and NUST, it is an open secret that students will be tempted to seek leakages. It is an unfair system, which dumps students into the educational doldrums after fourteen years in school. One can claim that there are Namcol and the few vocational institutions in the country, but these have proved to be inadequate and failed to address the needs of the so-called dropouts. In fact, the entry requirements to these institutions are equally very high for some of the students.
It may not be enough to blame the teachers, examiners and students for the leaking and rigging, but the education system should also put in screws to ensure that question papers do not leak. This may sound easy but in reality, it is difficult to implement. Human beings are prone to all sorts of mischief and may seem difficult to control them.
The impacts of leakages on the education system is enormous and it can adversely affect the products:
In this case, the products of leakages may end up being half-baked and fail to compete with other students academically. This may lead to situations where we have workers in offices, who do not deliver because they are not adequately schooled in those areas. The current situation in our offices may emanate from such former students who did not take their studies seriously.
Students who are exposed to this dishonesty practice grow up with the mentality that life is a shortcut. This is dangerous considering the challenges nations face, which need dedicated and committed leadership. We are struggling as a country to find honest leadership and the outcome is quite disappointing. Dishonest leadership is the hallmark of our systems in this country, where leaders are milking the country for their personal benefit in broad daylight.
The way forward to tackle this scourge of leaking and rigging of examination papers will need joint efforts from all fronts and stakeholders in the education sector. The culprits should not only be dismissed on the spot but also investigated and counselled if their actions hinge on monetary gains. Government should find ways and means of addressing the plight of the so-called dropouts.
Enough short courses should be introduced which will assist the less fortunate students to become self-reliant. Focus on the kids of the liberation struggle should also be minimised and let other children use the Berg Aukas Centre in Grootfontein, which is being under-utilized. It should be instilled in the minds of the students that university qualifications are not the only means to a good life.
As Steve Jobs, the late billionaire observed that it is better to educate our children to be happy not to be rich. The government should find ways to retain and cater to the students who are unable to make it to tertiary institutions. It should also employ all means and mechanisms at its disposal to minimise if not eradicate leaking and rigging in all spheres of the educational spectrum.
The Zambian ministry of education contemplated deploying the police in schools just to curb the high rate of leaking and rigging of examination questions papers. Namibia may not take such route but should appeal to stakeholders and make them understand the negative impact of leaking and rigging of exams nationally and globally. It can become an educational scar, which may take years to heal like the Fishrot scandal.