Government, parents hail Zimsec

Some children have failed to sit for their examinations because of the exorbitant fees

Some children have failed to sit for their examinations because of the exorbitant fees

Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
There has been an outcry on how public institutions have been choking the public through stiff operational terms detached from the current state of the economy.Among these institutions, some are proving to have an understanding of the environment they are operating in.

The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council have had a torrid time being criticised for the tight examination deadlines.

They, however, came to the party showing their human nature announcing the extension of the examination registration deadlines.

The move has drawn praise from some parents who were growing anxious over the registration of their children.

Mr Edgar Mureri lauded the examinations body for understanding the current plight of many parents in Zimbabwe.

“March has always been a difficult month for parents who will still be paying off debts incurred in paying first term fees.

“Personally, I appreciate the extension as it gives us time to source the money for registration,” he said.

Like most parents, he had decided that his child writes fewer subjects as the financial obligations had proved too heavy.

“I have two children in high school, one who is sitting for their Ordinary Level and the other who is writing Advanced Level examinations.

“The cost was too high for me. I had to tell my daughter to sit for six subjects instead of the 10 she was studying.”

Mr Mureri said it was a tough decision as he felt that he was limiting his child’s ability.

“It is never a father’s wish to seem like he is impeding on his child’s vision but a tough decision had to be made.

“I am glad that Zimsec has given us a three-week extension. We can look for the money to make sure every child sits for all the subjects she was studying,” he said.

The extension from March 30 to April 21, 2017, has been well received but some parents still feel that the problem lies not in the deadlines but the costs.

Mrs Anna Mukoki, who is a vendor in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana in Harare says the registration fees are far from affordable.

“This deadline extension means nothing if you ask me. It is not about the time-frame but the cost. The $15 per subject is too high,” she said.

Instead of celebrating a child’s aptitude when they decide to tackle up to 10 subjects at Ordinary Level, some parents rue the day their own child informs them of such a choice.

“Normally, I would be proud to have a brilliant child but imagine if they come and say that they want to write 12 subjects. Where would I find the money to pay for their fees and registration?”

Mrs Mukoki feels that the cost is not justified.

“I wonder what Zimsec does with the money. Printing those question papers and paying teachers would not amount to $15 per subject.

“Examinations are just money-making projects for Zimsec at the moment. We are being overcharged,” she said.

Registration fees are $26 per subject for A-Level candidates, $15 per subject for O-Level candidates and $6 per candidate for Grade Seven examinations.

While plausible, there is a likelihood that the extension may not have much of an impact.

Parents who have been struggling with raising the registration fees from January to March, may fail to miraculously raise the fees over a three week period.

Another obstacle is that some schools have been reportedly insisting that March 31 is their deadline, despite the statement by the examination body.

Zimsec, however, says they have a scheme that lessens the burden of payment on the parents.

In an interview, Zimsec spokesperson Mrs Nicky Dhlamini said some schools may have not explained the existence of the facility to parents.

“A lot of parents had not been given the information that there is a scheme that allows parents to pay registration fees over a period of two years,” she said.

The scheme was formulated to ensure that parents are not pressurised with making last minute payments.

“For the decision to be reached, the plight of the parents was obviously considered.

“It intends to make sure everyone has time to mobilise resources to pay for registration. Unfortunately, most parents had not been fully made aware of this facility,” Mrs Dhlamini said.

Mrs Dhlamini said Zimsec had taken into consideration civil servants who have been facing challenges in delayed salaries.

Education authorities agree with the Zimsec deadline extension.

Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Professor Paul Mavhima said the extension made sense considering the challenges in the economy.

“Things are difficult, they (parents and guardians) need the time to look for the money. This is why we initiated a move where people start paying their registration fees from Form Three to avoid last minute pressure,” he said.

There had been complaints that even the new deadline is still too close to the start of the year which is known for asking tough economic questions to parents.

But Prof Mavhima maintained that the time is considerate of the official work involved in commissioning examinations.

“There is a lot of administrative work that has to be done after registration and this needs time to process,” he said.

Education expert and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Technical Education at the University of Zimbabwe Dr Peter Kwaira said there is need for a deep insight into pupils who fail to sit for their examinations.

“Over the past weekend I was in Mashonaland West doing my filed research. I came across many cases of parents who did not have any idea where they were going to get money to register for their children,” he said.

He said the challenges parents face in paying tuition and registration fees has potential impact to the child’s performance.

“Before a child writes an examination, they are worrying about their performance and how they are going to tackle them.

“It adds stress to the child if they see their parents struggling to meet registration deadlines,” Dr Kwaira said.

After investing time reading and studying some children get to be told that they can’t write all their desired subjects because of resource constraints.

“There should be a way to ensure that we do not shatter children’s dreams. We are losing a lot of brilliant minds who may be facing challenges raising registration money or even tuition money,” he said.

Dr Kwaira welcomed the new scheme meant to ease the payment saying it was going to make lives for the parents and guardians easier.

“The idea of paying the registration fees over a period of time is the best way to tackle this challenge.

“However, parents have to be disciplined to ensure that they pay the money. The instalments also come with complacency when people falsely assume that there is still time to pay,” he said.

He said complaints that examination fees in Zimbabwe are expensive are unfortunate.

“The $15 for a high school examination is not too much. It is very expensive to run an examination. Especially a national one. There are people to be paid, transport, among a host of other expenses that are cost intensive,” he said.

The deadline extension, however, comes as relief to parents who were facing hurdles in paying before the stipulated March 31 deadline.

The three-week extension may not be too helpful considering that there is no month-end in between the dates where the majority of the workforce gets their remuneration.

A deadline day in May would have assisted the parents who would channel their March and April salaries to that end.

But a response is better than stoicism and Zimsec should be commended for showing concern for their publics.

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