In this interview, Albert Sharra speaks with Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) executive director Roy Hauya on leaked Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
Q. Some people are coming forward to say the 2012 MSCE examination papers leaked in Lilongwe. Is your office aware of this?
A. Maneb is aware of examinations leakage this year. This became clear during the second week of writing major subjects. When we got such reports, members of the Senior Management Team, who were already monitoring the administration of examinations throughout the country, carried out investigations along with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) in Lilongwe to determine the source and extent.
In all, the team arrested 20 candidates, three police officers from Police Headquarters at Area 30 and three teachers who were caught with some extracted questions from Mathematics Paper I and II and to a lesser extent English Literature and Life Skills.
Q. Every time your office refutes allegations that examination leaked. What gives you confidence to disbelieve reports from people on the ground?
A. Maneb seeks evidence through investigations. It does not just refute allegations. Maneb is a credible public institution which believes in carrying out investigations first before responding to make sure that accurate and appropriate information is made available.
The organisation has a fully-fledged Security Department whose role it is to carry out such investigations together with MPS to determine the nature, extent and culprits of leakage or cheating and take action on the basis of facts. You might be interested to know that in most cases allegations made in certain localities have tended to be false, but, of course, one understands the concern.
Q. Our interviews with MSCE candidates in Lilongwe have established that some papers really leaked and some students are demanding that the examinations be readministered. What do you say on this?
A. The decision to readminister national examinations depends on the magnitude of leakage and other factors. Such a decision can only be arrived at where all other 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.
Q. Reports indicate that almost every year, MSCE examinations papers leak. What strategies does your office use instead to identify students who have cheated during examinations?
A. There have been a number of times when examinations have leaked, but it is misleading to say that examinations leak almost every year. In the case of cheating, Maneb has adequate mechanisms for detecting the practice and applies appropriate measures to affected candidates or examination centres to deter the behaviour.
Q. What strategies are you putting in place to solve this problem once and for all?
A. Maneb already has strategies targeted at tackling malpractices. But given these developments, Maneb will intensify checking upkeep of examinations and the general security arrangements at examination distribution centres, working along with MPS and officials from Ministry of Education.
Maneb will further intensify examination malpractice campaigns through multi-media approaches involving communities and institutions. This is where you as media organisations come in to transmit information and challenge people to maintain noble values that protect the quality of education in this country.
We have planned to carry out a security review seminar and a series of workshops for education sector and related stakeholders about the forms of examination malpractices, the driving factors, the ills and the cost to our countryâ€™s development in the short and long terms.
Q. What is your last message to Malawians on administration of examinations?
A. As a last word, let me underline the fact that the issue of examination malpractices, which includes leaking, is complex. It must bring together all stakeholders into concerted action if Malawi should deal with it decisively.
For example, parents and guardians should encourage their wards to work hard to prepare for examinations; candidates themselves should desist from engaging in any examination malpractices and instead focus on study to face examinations with the confidence necessary to do well. Teachers on their part should make sure that schools cover syllabuses, that learners have the confidence to do well and are supported with dedication and concern.
All those officials entrusted with the task of safeguarding and or administering examinations should exercise integrity, taking pride in the trust bestowed upon them. The police, Ministry of Education Science and Technology and Maneb should work in tandem to guard national examination materials jealously. At the same time, all of us should be interested in answering the questions: why such malpractices; why today and not fifteen years ago, and together look for solutions.