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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

We must work beyond national examinations

3rd May 2012
Editorial cartoon

We wonder what percentage of the Tanzanian public found time to listen to National Examinations Council of Tanzania (Necta) executive secretary Dr Joyce Ndalichako, as she released the results of the 2011 Form Six national examinations in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.

But even assuming she attracted the attention of millions of people as she leafed through her report, we can bet not many have fully digested the message she had for the nation and the world.

We were just next to the Necta executive at the news conference she used to make the examination results public information, and thereafter made an intensive run through her report.

At least on the surface, the report had much for people with the interests of Tanzania at heart to applaud and celebrate – for why not sing and dance with joy on learning that performance in terms of the number of candidates having passed the examination had improved?

But a more thorough analysis of what Dr Ndalichako had to say points to aspects and developments that ought to be cause for great concern, even sadness.

For instance, she referred to a slew of irregularities that she said rendered the examinations as a process much less of the resounding success they were expected to be had everything gone the way they were supposed to have gone.

Giving examples of improper conduct demonstrated as candidates cracked their heads in examination rooms, she said some invigilators were neither experienced in overseeing the process while others were not even teachers – which she described as a gross violation of laid down regulations and procedures.

Apparently aware that her hands were sort of tied in that there was precious little the council she heads could do about the mess, all she would say was that she was “confident” the relevant authorities would take appropriate remedial or corrective action if efforts to forestall any form of foul play did not work to satisfaction.

This was not the first time for her to breathe a fire that weak, nor indeed was she the first Necta boss or government authority to promise wrongdoers a largely elusive tough time.

The only notable development appears to be that things are currently not as bad as obtained, say, seven to ten years ago – when exam leaks were so vicious and widespread that they were generally viewed as the proper way to conduct examinations.

Despite the overall improvement reported, though, education authorities should not rest on their laurels in the mistaken belief that there is no more possibility of our relapsing into the nasty situation of the bad old days.

There should be thorough checks – regular and impromptu – in all schools and other institutions of learning, with a view to ensuring that students’ performance is based on merit and not determined by extraneous forces or factors such as cheating or corruption.

Only a playing field made as level as possible can ensure that students and schools showcase their true qualities as decided though continuous assessment and during graded examinations.

We need to devise ways of creating conditions under which all students and schools find equitable room to excel, and not otherwise, if we really want to sing happier songs in the future.

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