HARARE – Parents have dragged the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) to the High Court seeking an order nullifying its decision to have children resit for the 2017 Ordinary Level English Paper 2 examination, after allegations the paper leaked through social media.
The applicants Victor Mukomeka on behalf of his child Charmaine Mukomeka and Chingasiyeni Govhati on behalf of Ebba Anesu Govhati, have cited Zimsec and Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima as respondents.
Mukomeka, through his lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Justice for Children, said the announcement for the 2017 ‘‘O’’ Level candidates to resit for the English Paper 2 examination on February 16, 2018, has caused anxiety on his daughter.
“Importantly, on completion of the November 2017 examinations, my daughter travelled to Australia on the December 24, 2017. She is due to return on March 24, 2018, as she has a return ticket purchased for that day.
“It would cost me enormously to change the return date for my daughter to travel back to Zimbabwe to write examinations. I do not have the financial capacity to pay for this change,” Mukomeka said.
He further told the court that the announcement by Mavima did not indicate whether the decisions were taken by Zimsec board or by the minister.
“In the event that the decisions in casu were taken by the 2nd respondent, I submit that such decisions are null and void as the minister has no powers to annul examination results.
“Section 34 of the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Act (Chapter 25:18) specifically grants such powers to the Examinations Board of the 1st respondent (Zimsec).
“What the minister can do in terms of Section 36 of the same Act is to promulgate regulations to do with inter alia, the cancellation for good cause of examinations or the results of examinations and the disqualification of examination candidates. These regulations are meant to guide the Examinations Board in exercising their Section 34 powers.
“An exercise of Section 34 powers by the minister would amount to usurping the powers of the examinations board, thereby acting ultra vires the Act and the law. This is a ground for nullification of the minister’s decisions and announcement,” Mukomeka said.
He further said in the event the decisions were made by Zimsec, they would be in breach of administrative justice.
“The decision is irrational to the extent that the means employed does not serve the declared purpose of preserving the integrity of the examination system in Zimbabwe under the circumstances,” he said, adding the decision was not fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society, which bases actions on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.
He also said, the minister despite blaming the social media, did not give evidence on what exactly was shared on social media, who shared it, how much it spread and to what effect this had on the actual examination and its results.
“Giving students eight days to prepare for a resit is inadequate and unduly constraining. Examinations take time to prepare for and students having written examination in November 2017 would be too far away from the periods in which they prepared for this examination.
“Because students are in different locations across the world, students are not on the same plane in terms of the time available for them to prepare, factoring in travel arrangements and travel time for the students in the various parts of the world to get their examination centres.”
Mukomeka also said the decision taken by Zimsec shows that it lacks confidence in its system and an apparent admission of the porous system.
“As a result, the means employed do not necessarily achieve the means sought. The decisions made are so wide and sweeping in nature that they render the entire process suspect and cannot be in the public interest as envisaged by Section 3 (3) (b) (v) of the Administrative Justice Act (Chapter 10:28).
“Instead of preserving or advancing the integrity of the examination system in Zimbabwe, this decision exposes neglect, confusion, and failure to take responsibility and to act at preliminary stages of problems and in fact subtracts from the integrity of the system.
“The examinations board is itself displaying and publicising the insecurities in the system and its lack of faith and trust in its own systems.
“It is thereof unfathomable how this display of lack of faith in their own systems and processes could lead to the public and candidates gaining faith in the system,” he said.
The two applicants now seek an order declaring Zimsec’s decision is in violation of Section 68 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. They further seek a nullification of the decision for students to re-sit for the November 2017 ‘O’ Level English Paper 2 and a confirmation of the examination and that results be released as final and definitive.
Zimsec and Mavima have not yet responded to the application.