THE Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) has withdrawn 13 Ordinary Level examination papers at all its examination centres countrywide after the acting headmaster of Sijawugwe Secondary School in Bubi District lost them while travelling from Bulawayo to the school on Sunday.
The timetable for O-Level examinations, however, remains unchanged and they will start on 29 October as scheduled. The withdrawn papers are English Language (Paper 1 and 2), Mathematics non calculator version (Paper 1 and 2), Geography (Paper 1 and 2), Integrated Science (Paper 1, 2 and 3), Commerce (Paper 1 and 2) and Ndebele (Paper 1 and 2).
Confirming the developments yesterday, Zimsec board chairman Professor Norman Maphosa said the examination body was working on replacing the question papers. He said examinations would proceed at all the 2 118 O-Level centres without disruption.
"Zimsec has cancelled all the question papers for missing subjects at all examination centres countrywide. Zimsec is now replacing the 13 question papers with new ones and the examinations are going to proceed as indicated on the original timetable. There are not going to be any changes to the timetable and examination centres will be notified accordingly," he said.
Prof Maphosa apologised to the O-Level candidates, parents and stakeholders for the unfortunate incident, saying investigations were still in progress.
"Zimsec is aware and regrets the anxiety this incident may have caused to candidates, parents, guardians and other stakeholders. I would like to inform them that everything is under control. We are yet to get full details on how the question papers went missing. Apart from this incident, other centres had managed to collect their papers without any challenges," he said.
Prof Maphosa urged those involved in handling of the question papers to exercise "due dilligence and care".
"We would not expect a recurrence of this unfortunate incident. We believe the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture will take the necessary disciplinary measures against the headmaster as they are the employer," he said.
Prof Maphosa said it was the responsibility of Zimsec and the parent Ministry to ensure the examination papers were safe.
"We are always security conscious and because of lack of resources, we cannot deliver the examination papers to every school that is why we work together with the Ministry," he said.
The acting school head, Mr Panganai Zimhuno, reportedly lost the examination papers in a bus between Renkini Long Distance Bus Terminus and the 30km peg along the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road when he was coming from Bulawayo.
It cost Zimsec $996 000 to print examination question papers for the 286 343 candidates who registered for the O-Level examinations this year. To replace the missing question papers for the six subjects, Zimsec needs about $850 000. Prof Maphosa said they were negotiating with their printing partners for the new question papers to be printed as soon as possible.
Zimsec prints and delivers the examination question papers to cluster collecting points where heads of various examination centres collect them. The Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart said Government would only comment after getting the full details of what transpired to the examination papers.