The nightmare that ZIMSEC is


LAST time we said that what you want to teach is what determines your objectives.
Therefore, for the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) to say curriculum development cannot have ideological objectives or affective objectives purportedly because they are not ‘measurable’, means that ZIMSEC is overreaching its mandate.
It is not the prerogative nor the purpose of ZIMSEC to decide what our children should learn, neither is it there to supervise or inspect the national curriculum.
It is not the standard-bearer of the nation’s curriculum.
It is the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) that decides what is to be learned in Zimbabwe’s schools and it enlists the assistance of ZIMSEC to help it access the progress of the learners in mastering what it set out schools should teach Zimbabwe’s children.
Our children are not there to pass what ZIMSEC commissions itself to examine.
ZIMSEC should be guided by CDU not the other way round.
Botswana’s Deputy Minister of Education who is also the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers of education, at the just ended Second Conference of Education and Expo cautioned participants not to fall into the trap of an examinations-driven curriculum.
Before the ink could dry on these words of wisdom, Dr Chiviye on behalf of ZIMSEC delivered an esoteric paper on ‘evidence based assessment.’
His paper was not an analysis of Zimbabwe, its national goals or ethos, what type of education this nation requires and therefore what kind of exam would suit this situation.
The paper was so anaesthetised one got the feeling that it had been resurrected from an archive of papers earlier presented for some course somewhere otherwise it is not easy to explain how it could be so unrelated to anything.
He even advised the delegates that if they googled, they would also get what he was talking about
This was in stark contrast to the meaningful, historical, contextual and forward looking papers presented by ministers of education from our sister-countries of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and South Sudan.
Chiviye even dared to boast before our foreign dignitaries and diplomats that the so-called ‘evidence based assessment’ was responsible for Zimbabwe having the ‘best education in the world’, ‘everybody knows’ he claimed.
We were mortified.
The ministers from our sister-countries had been generous in praising Zimbabweans working in their countries, but it did not mean to say we needed to perch ourselves as the best of the pack.
Recently The Herald reported that 8 000 Zimbabwean graduates had been registered for jobs outside the country.
Is this what we should be congratulated for, that we invest millions in the education of our children so that they can go and look for jobs outside the country, sometimes to do menial tasks in Britain and America?
If that is the kind of education we have then it’s someone else’s not ours, it belongs to whoever it is serving because it is not serving us as a nation.
If that is the case then we should stop this kind of education and institute one which Zimbabwe needs, the one that addresses Zimbabwe’s problems.
And we do not have to search far, the one that was developed during the liberation struggle for implementation in a free Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production (ZIMFEP) model is just what the doctor ordered.
In linking theory and practice and production, every learning institution becomes a centre of production.
The graduates would then be fully equipped to produce wealth, employ themselves and others, to serve the nation in their field of training.
The founding fathers of Zimbabwe were more far-sighted than we give them credit for.
The conundrum we find ourselves in today was avoidable, it was never the intention of the liberation struggle that we would find ourselves in this situation.
If ZIMSEC feels unequal to the task of examining such a curriculum, the ZIMFEP Secretariat has the capacity to advise and assist.
Had we launched the ZIMFEP model in our schools on schedule, the SAITH EV probably would not have been Zimbabwe’s first car, the first car would long have been here a long time ago.
Fortunately the delegates would not have beeen bamboozled by the esoteric ZIMSEC presentation.
They told the ZIMSEC presenter they wanted a practice-based paper.
They challenged ZIMSEC to balance exams 80 percent versus 20 percent in favour of practice.
They argued if a child can produce a pane of glass that was proof enough that they can do it.
They made reference to the way our forefathers, taught, through practice, not by theorising how to milk, or hunt or smelt iron.
They also called for project-based assessment.
However, ZIMSEC would not come out of its cloud.
They had to safeguard reliability and validity, their examinations model was the bedrock of Zimbabwe’s ‘fame’ as ‘the best educated,’ they claimed.
Perhaps they could tell us what is so valid and reliable in the certification of thousands of graduates which the nation cannot use?
What is non-valid and non-reliable in Josey Mahachi’s patriotism which drove her to start a company to protect Zimbabwe’s image?
What is so valid and reliable in certifying graduates who do not see the value in farming on Zimbabwe’s soil, but opt to bath and nurse the aged of other nations?
There is nothing non-reliable nor non-valid in Sangulani Chikumbutso’s inventions which even challenge physics as we have known it so far, it is perhaps a blessing that he did not become a victim of ZIMSEC for too long having left the formal school system at Form Two.
Can ZIMSEC argue it has midwifed these unique inventions?
Can ZIMSEC boast that it taught Josey Mahachi her patriotism which tenet according to ZIMSEC should not be situated in the curriculum objectives because it is not ‘measurable’?
And perhaps ZIMSEC can tell us where reliability and validity lacks in the love, sacrifice and commitment to Zimbabwe which drew thousands of young Zimbabweans to put their lives on the line for their precious motherland.
ZIMSEC’s battle cry is that these attitudes, these values, these feelings, have no place in curricula objectives because they are not ‘measurable’.
Independence which these attitudes, values and feelings birthed is not measurable?
What has ZIMSEC’s ‘measurability’ brought us in the last 35 years which can even remotely compare with the independence which was brought about by the ‘unmeasurables’ which motivated the freedom fighters?
Affairs of the nation are the gravest of matters.
They demand serious scholarship not reference to google.
Dr Mahamba is a war veteran and holds a PhD from Havard University. She is currently doing consultancy work.


  1. With respect to the article above, this is from Zimsec’s own website

    The aim of ZIMSEC is to offer an excellent, value driven, educational assessment and responsive awarding systems. Through maximum capacity utilization, the Council is gearing itself to continually exceed expectations.ZIMSEC carries out quality assessment to guarantee the quality of manpower for national development. It identifies potential talents, competencies and skills for future leaders of industry, commerce and government; feeds institutions of higher learning and the employment sector. ZIMSEC sets standards for levels of academic expertise of Zimbabwean nationals for use locally and internationally.
    Brief Historical Background
    1983 – Cabinet decision to localize Ordinary and Advanced Level Examinations;
    1984 – Training of first lot of markers;
    1990 – First localized O-Level examination written;
    1994 – Zimbabwe School Examinations Council Act (ZIMSEC ACT 1994);
    1995 – Completion of the localization of the Ordinary Level Examination;
    October 1995 – First ZIMSEC Board appointed;
    November 1995 – Birth of ZIMSEC Council under an Interim Director;
    July 1, 1996 – First substantive ZIMSEC Director appointed;
    November 1, 1996 – Former Examinations Branch staff joined ZIMSEC after abolition from the Public Service.
    November 2002 – First ZIMSEC A-Level Examination written;
    2003 – Completion of the localization of A-Level examinations.
    Advantages to the nation of having ZIMSEC
    Indigenization of the curriculum would be guaranteed, ensuring that education was made relevant to the socio-economic environment. In particular teaching and assessment materials would be drawn from an environment with which learners are familiar and to which they can relate and apply their learning.
    Economic considerations: government would be able to determine the levels of examination fees in accordance with the prevailing economic environment; the localization would stem the flow of foreign currency from the country.
    Educational Consideration: transfer of skills (question setting, marking and grading) from foreigners to locals; increased confidence in the educational fields as locals became more and more confident in handling examination issues.
    Political Considerations: localization ensures the end of colonial curricula in Zimbabwe.


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