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10 000 School Heads Have To Go With Laptops To ZIMSEC Risking COVID 19

The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC), the country’s primary and secondary education examinations board is putting the whole country at added COVID 19 risk through a ridiculous registration system. From the Progressive Teachers Association President, Takavafira Zhou:

Zimsec examination registration process that requires that 9159 school heads travel to Zimsec centres by 30 March 2020 is a threat to their health and safety. In practice, this entails that the majority of these heads would travel for more than 450km to and from centres thereby making them susceptible to corona virus.

Now the number of people being put to risk directly there could be double because most school heads go with their ICT teachers to get registered for ZIMSEC.

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Also I must point out that in this instance the heads are not being asked to all of them present themselves at ZIMSEC at once, they are not congregating there. However, that they have to travel from all parts of the country to one location puts them at risk, their families at risk, fellow travelers (a number of them use public transport) at risk, ZIMSEC staffers and their families at risk… the whole nation at greater risk!

Besides the COVID 19 circumstances the registration of ZIMSEC exam centres is very ridiculous in this age of the internet.

How does it really work?

For years now, ZIMSEC has been using some custom software for centres to manage examinations. What’s funny is that this software is not accessible via the internet. Added to that ZIMSEC does not even distribute discs with the software to the schools, the schools have to bring their laptops to ZIMSEC!

Why? Some ZIMSEC officials say they don’t give out discs of their software because it is licensed and they don’t want the intellectual property stolen. Say what?

So over the years ZIMSEC has been holding these big workshops with school heads and then at the end of the workshop they would then load the headteachers’ laptops with the software to be used for the year’s examination sessions.

This would happen every freaking year. Now in the face of COVID 19 the headteachers are not going to congregate but they still have to travel to ZIMSEC to get the software loaded.

What should ZIMSEC do?

I agree with Zhou who says they shouldn’t necessarily cancel examinations. They can play it by ear there. Zhou says:

We are not urging for the suspension of November Zimsec Public Examinations, but the modification of registration process, and if it can’t be modified, postponement of the travel of school heads to Zimsec centres until the threat of coronavirus pandemic subsides.

First obvious thing that ZIMSEC can do is to send the software discs to the school heads via courier or post with clear instructions on how to load and install the software since they had never empowered the heads to do this. I don’t even understand their piracy fears, ZIMSEC should just grow up.

If for some reason they don’t want to send the discs then it is safer for ZIMSEC personnel to go to the schools themselves. They go in ZIMSEC vehicles wearing full protective gear, install the software and take care not to pick up virus from one school to the next by spraying their suits before leaving any school for the next.

In the long run though, ZIMSEC should make this software available online as an SaaS platform. Yes not all schools have good internet connection but it is cheaper and more flexible for heads at such schools to travel to any internet connection than it is to go to ZIMSEC.

ZIMSEC must see reason

Zhou says:

As Ptuz we have approached Zimsec to abandon their irresponsible and intransigent hardline stance impermeable to reason and facts. However, Zimsec seems to claim that they are also working under a national directive whose source a Zimsec official could not reveal. 

We add our voice and call on ZIMSEC and the Minister of Education, Cain Mathema to make this nonsense stop. Too much is at risk.


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