THE Zimbabwe School Examinations Council will this year introduce a pilot project to ensure headmasters are not able to open examination papers which will only be opened by remote control by the examinations body a few minutes before candidates write. The move seeks to curb cases of examination paper leaks which have hounded Zimsec since the completion of the localisation of examinations in 1995.
Zimsec says the introduction of electronic seals and remote controlled smart keys will help ensure that mischievous headmasters do not have unauthorised access to exam papers.
The software called the gridlock technology was first introduced by a South African company last year and has since been franchised by a local company.
Zimsec director Mr Esau Nhandara said they adopted the new system as the continued leakage of examination papers was tainting their reputation and the integrity of public examinations.
“The gridlock technology is a programmed locking system we aim to introduce this year and is the best control we can have,” he said.
“We were assured that no one can tamper with the software because it will be controlled from the command centre. The system will target both the Ordinary and Advanced Level pupils, but we will first roll it out as a pilot project. We will first start with Ordinary Level exams which is the most leaked paper. We want to implement it this year, but it is a mammoth task in terms of budget because we require at least $5 million to implement it.”
Mr Nhandara said they were working on securing funding to by the technology and said this would not result in an increase in examination fees.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora welcomed the introduction of the technology.
“This is the correct thing to do, we should not fight technology we should embrace it,” he said in an interview.
Explaining the gridlock technology, Zimsec assistant director examinations Mr Sebastian Chandiza said the technology would prevent unscrupulous people from tampering with the examination paper containers.
“Gridlock technology is a box with a size of a briefcase and each box carries all question papers for an examination centre,” he said. “If we lock the system, the technology system prohibits anyone from opening the box before the allocated time.
“It registers all the attempts one can make because it is controlled from the command centre which is Zimsec.”
Mr Chandiza said headmasters from all the 2 500 centres in the country will collect the examination papers sealed and they would be opened simultaneously nationwide at the prescribed date and time of a particular paper.
Zimsec has been hit by the recurrent leakage of examination papers and last year, four examination papers leaked in the Midlands province costing the organisation over $1 million as pupils had to re-sit the examinations.