GOVERNMENT has indicated that all officials charged with handling examination papers will in future take an oath of secrecy as one of many measures aimed at curbing examination paper leakages now dogging the country.
Violating the Secrets Act carries a jail term of up to 20 years.
The Act prohibits the disclosure for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Zimbabwe of information which might be useful to an enemy, among others.
In a post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government had amended the principles of the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Bill to incorporate stiffer penalties against people who leak examination papers.
“In the new Bill, the board will be given powers to withhold examination results pending investigations by Zimsec in cases of examination malpractice such as leakages,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Persons who handle examination material and all those who work closely with Zimsec will take an oath of secrecy. Furthermore, a section will be introduced to deal with issues pertaining to conflict of interest among Zimsec employees and those who gain access to examination materials.
“Section 35 will be amended to provide additional offences and to further enumerate acts of examination malpractice and their penalties.”
In January, Zimsec nullified results for 4 961 candidates who sat for Ordinary Level examinations last year over cheating allegations.
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The Zimsec markers said in some centres, the majority of pupils got exceptionally questionable high marks of up to 100% for Combined Science Paper 2 and others, which raised eyebrows.
Government localised public school examinations in the late 1990s after scrapping the University of Cambridge examinations system.
Mutsvangwa said the proposed Bill seeks to protect the integrity of Zimsec.
“The Bill will also arrest the vice of examination leakages by introducing stiffer penalties in order to deal effectively with offenders,” she said.
“Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that the Bill would be amended to give power to deregister examination centres that do not comply with Zimsec standards of appropriate examination centres.
“The Bill will also strengthen the independence and efficiency of the Zimsec board by equipping it with the necessary skilled persons that can adequately meet Zimsec’s mandate.”
Mutsvangwa said the proposed Bill also seeks to amend the Zimsec Act enacted in 1994.
“Since then, numerous developments have occurred in the education sector as well as anomalies that have come to the attention of the Zimsec and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education which require amendment of the Act. The Bill, therefore, seeks to align the Act with the various developments that have taken place since its enactment,” she said.