The Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) has suspended two directors for reasons sources say are linked to the 2017 examinations results, Weekend Nation has learnt.
Multiple sources from Maneb corroborated that last month the board suspended the director of examinations Gerson Mutala Phiri and director of computer services Strauss Sankhulani.
Our sources include two senior officials at Maneb, one board of directors and one at the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, who separately confirmed the incident, but differed on the reasons behind the suspension.
The two, who have a combined work experience of over 20 years, are currently awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing that took place on December 12 2017, according to a board member who asked not to be named.
One group of sources buys the official version that the suspension of the two revolves around an incident involving results of a Standard Eight candidate while others feel there was more to the suspension than candidate’s results gaffe.
The board member told Weekend Nation that the two were suspended because of the way they handled issues surrounding results of a candidate who got wrong marks and failed to be selected to secondary school.
He said there was a query from one pupil who could not believe that [he/she] did not make it to secondary school and the guardians asked to see how the pupil scored
“It transpired that there was a data entry problem. In one subject the candidate scored 86 percent, but the marks were recorded as six. The matter was resolved and the candidate was selected to a secondary school on second selection,” said the source.
But, the source said, the challenge came about because of the way the two departments handled the issue of disseminating the results to the said candidate as raw examinations data was provided without asking permission from the executive director.
“For years, Maneb has been operating without a ‘proper executive director’ so it seems departments were just operating without any system. It was not right for the directors to release raw examination data to a candidate without getting permission from the executive director. Maybe this is how things were happening in the past, but that is not the right way to do things,” said the source.
The current executive director Gerald Chiunda, who was appointed in August 2017, succeeded Augustine Gundula who headed the institution from 2014 to 2015. Former deputy director Jack Stephen Chalimba worked as acting executive director during the the period the post was vacant.
However, several officers that Weekend Nation has talked to at the institution believe that the Standard Eight candidate’s incident was the last straw that broke the camel’s back as there were long standing differences that emanated from the disagreement over the decision to manipulate the 2017 Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations (MSCE) results.
One official claimed: “There was a move to manipulate the outcome of the 2017 MSCE results to reflect good performance. We understand the two did not support the idea. That is why they were suspended [over the smaller incident] about the Standard Eight examination results.
“Their suspension came from the executive director and not the board of directors, which was irregular. Strangely their suspension is on half pay as if they were found guilty,” observed one source.
The 2017 school calendar produced the best MSCE examination results in five years at 61.66 percent pass rate with 2016 coming second at 58.32 percent. The 2015 pass rate was 55.24 percent; for 2014 the pass rate was at 54.87 percent while that for 2013 was 52.48 percent.
Mutala Phiri and Sankhulani, who have both worked at Maneb for over 10 years, refused to comment on the reasons behind their suspension, saying the matter was still under review and did not want to jeopardise the process.
Both Ministry of Education and Maneb board of directors say they are aware of the suspension of the directors, but said at the moment they are treating the matter as an internal issue to be handled by the executive director.
Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Justin Saidi said the ministry could only intervene if the matter involved the executive director and not officers who were not directly employed by it.
Maneb board chairperson Professor John Saka also referred the matter to Maneb executive director Gerald Chiunda, describing the suspension as an internal matter.
However, Chiunda said he could not respond to Weekend Nation’s questions until the end of the holidays.