BLANTYRE - Malawi's president is calling for the dismissal of the National Examinations Board after end-of-year school exams were leaked on social media. The leak forced the cancelation of national exams and led to clashes Wednesday between angry students and police, who used teargas to disperse the protests.
In a national address Thursday, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said top managers of the examinations board should be fired for allowing the tests to be leaked.
He spoke a day after the Ministry of Education canceled the Malawi Schools Certificate Examinations, or MSCE, which started October 27.
The MSCE are final examinations for learners in Malawi’s secondary schools, which prepare them for the next level of their education.
President Chakwera said the examination leakage proved the incompetence of the Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB), which administers the exams.
“To have several secondary schools’ exam papers leaked, and the education of hundreds of thousands of students thrown off-course is simply unacceptable. Whatever the motives, this is clearly a deliberate act occasioned by elements of criminality, impunity, and negligence that cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.
Police arrested 38 students and three teachers Tuesday from various secondary schools in connection with the leakage of six examination papers that were shared through social media.
The executive director of the examinations board, Gerald Chiunda, told a news conference Wednesday the leakage might have originated from his office and the matter was being investigated.
“Even as we speak now, examinations for Geography 1, Geography 2, have not moved from the district central point to the distribution centers in that district. They have not. Those were going to be moved on Saturday or Sunday. So, if that examination has leaked, then where else do [we] point fingers at? It is MANEB,” he said.
President Chakwera announced several measures aimed at clearing up the mess.
These include a one-week deadline for the minister of education to identify and discipline people who allowed the leakage to happen.
“I am therefore giving the Malawi National Examination Board until the end of this month to remove the top management of MANEB, on account of this gross failure, and replace it with a new team that will conduct the most credible examinations Malawi has ever had, which must be done no later than January,” said the president.
Education expert Steve Sharra says although he welcomes the measures, making the students wait for a new exam – after months of COVID-19 closures – sounds unfair.
“They have already spent five months of school closures. We know what happened, some students got pregnant, some got married, and then when schools resumed. At least it was a big relief because we were going to at least have the process of returning to normality. And then this happens again, so we risk having those unfortunate incidents all over again,” he said.
Sharra feels the government should re-administer the examinations within days or weeks by just replacing the leaked papers, rather than punishing the students for the crime they did not commit.