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Exam cheats lose court challenge

By Mashudu Netsianda

The High Court yesterday dismissed an application by 15 Gweru-based Regina Mundi High School pupils who were blacklisted by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) for alleged cheating.

The 15 pupils, through their parents, filed a court application at the Bulawayo High Court challenging the nullification of their November 2017 results by Zimsec.

They sought an order directing Zimsec to set aside its decision to cancel their November 2017 examination results.

In papers before the court, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavima and Zimsec were cited as respondents.

Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Nokuthula Moyo, ruled that the court had no right to interfere with Zimsec findings.

She said Zimsec is empowered in terms of the law to investigate, make findings and consequently take appropriate action against those who flout examination regulations.

“This court has no right to interfere with that process which is due process in terms of the Zimsec Act. This court has no tools or equipment to assess the truthfulness or otherwise of the averment by applicants that they did not cheat. On the other hand, Zimsec is so empowered both legally and technically,” said Justice Moyo.The judge said Zimsec, like any other administrative body, should be left to manage situations before it without the courts entering the fray.

“The courts would not want to interfere with the findings of the first respondent (Zimsec) lightly due to the national importance of the integrity of examinations. I hold the view that the powers of Zimsec to manage examinations and maintain their international integrity and importance, is an integral part of our society as the future of a country lies in its educational system,” said Justice Moyo.

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She said allegations or findings of exam cheating should not be taken lightly. The judge said curtailing the powers of Zimsec may result in those that do not deserve certain grades riding on their dishonesty and in the process lowering the country’s educational standards.

“In my view, Zimsec should be allowed to take all necessary steps to safeguard our national examinations in the manner it sees fit. Examinations are of international importance and their integrity should be jealously guarded by those responsible for their management”

“I hold the view that the main application has no prospects of success on the merits and consequently this application must fail. The application is accordingly dismissed with costs,” ruled Justice Moyo.

According to court papers, one of the pupils, believed to be the mastermind, is alleged to have mobilised her classmates to contribute $3 each towards raising money that was used to purchase copies of the November 2017 Examinations question papers for English Paper 2 and Mathematics Paper 2.

The pupil allegedly received the question papers on her mobile phone via social media platform, WhatsApp, and shared them with her classmates. They then allegedly smuggled the papers into the examination room.

One of the parents argued that the pupils were unfairly treated after Zimsec blacklisted his child without making an inquiry to establish the facts.
The parent said they received the message of the nullification of results from the school official through WhatsApp.

He said Zimsec conducted its own inquiry and quizzed two pupils who then ultimately implicated all the applicants.

The parents’ lawyers, Garikayi and Company, said the pupils’ rights were violated in terms of section 3 of the Administrative Justice Act because they did not appear before a proper board to defend themselves.

Section 34 (3) of the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council Act stipulates that it shall not be necessary for the Zimsec board to consult or hear representations before cancelling or annulling the results of an examination.

They said the decision by Zimsec to blacklist the pupils and nullify their results is draconian, irrational and grossly unreasonable.

“The nullification of results for subjects which do not form part of the allegations is unfair and unjust considering that there was no misconduct alleged in these examinations,” said the lawyers.

Recently, a Harare High Court judge Justice Happius Zhou dismissed a similar application by four Ordinary Level pupils at St David’s Bonda High School, whose November 2017 results were withheld by Zimsec last month for exam cheating.

In dismissing the application, Justice Zhou said the court cannot interfere with the decision taken by Zimsec without aiding an illegality.  The Chronicle