Saturday 2018-01-20




By Mbongeni Mbingo | 2018-01-14

So, how long is this external exam charade going to last for—another year, two, or three? Or is it going to be forever?

Learners, and the public, were promised that the Swaziland Primary Certificate (SC) and the Junior Certificate (JC) external examinations were going to be phased out, clearly because authorities could see that these things were becoming less significant. The decision to do this was taken ages ago, and by 2012, the process to phase it out should have started.

In its place, the Ministry of Education was to introduce check points in Grade Four and Grade Seven, doing away with the Grade Seven External Examination. The ministry further proposed summative assessment in Forms Three and Five.

Yet, here we are in 2018, and our children will again sit for another external examination in both classes—and there is no indication in sight that this charade will be stopped. Meanwhile, the circus has become predictable, as when results are to be published the whole country is held to ransom, with the ECoS playing sugar daddy while government tries to play God.

You should see when the examination results are released to understand what a farce this whole exercise has become.

To begin with, the dates for the release of these results are kept secret such that you would swear this was the date of Christ’s return to this Earth!

The dates are never known, and the public is kept guessing, until the results have been presented, like an Olympic torch, to the minister responsible, and in turn to Cabinet. Mind you, this is just Grade Seven results, and the charade extends to the formal announcement of the analysis of the results by the minister. Meanwhile, all that should be required is the confirmation of the release dates, and the subsequent release of these results.

This has been going on for probably a half century, yet, year in and out, this is the same predictable routine.

I do not get this. What would happen if the release of the results was put out there for the public to know, and the media was saved from this torture of having to chase after the release of the results?

I do not wish to go into how the media, particularly the print, is treated with regard to the publishing of these results. At some point you could swear the Exams Council is doing us all a favour.

 It is as if these are some private files that should not be accessed by the public—or that they are stolen and we should not be laying our hands on them.

I do not quite recall if the media was always given this run around during this important time in the calendar concerning the release of schools results, but over the years, it has seemed to get worse and worse. It is scandalous how the media has to beg for information in this country—at times information that is so public it is not funny.

The manner the media is treated during this period says a lot about the attitude towards the media even when it is clear that this is something that should be out there, no questions asked.

Not only will the Exams Council refuse with this important file, until the minister has read his press release, or until it has pleased someone at the Exams Council offices, but by the time you get it you are made to feel like you have laid your hands on some treasure chest—or jackpot.

I am certain if it went according to some people, these results would actually just not be released in time. But let us not even go there.

What has struck me is that in this day and age, we are still being made to be on tenterhooks and with certian people behaving like they are more important than sliced cheese. Or, more seriously, why are we still here? Why haven’t we moved on? Why is it still necessary to put our children under the trauma of this examination that has become meaningless by the year?

What is even more disconcerting with the external examination is the scandal, or the fraud, or the commercialisation of this system.

 First the scandal: most schools hide the learners who they know or suspect won’t get good results. They only register the ones they are aware are likely to get good grades. The aim is to ensure their schools get higher percentage passes, so that they look good and prance better along the corridors.

This makes this whole thing nonsensical. If schools are going to hide a majority of children in order to be seen to be improving their school’s marks, then what does this tell us? It makes this a whole sham. The entire process becomes flawed, especially because this would no doubt alter the final analysis of the percentage passes.

Come to think of it. Schools aren’t registering the learners who are likely to fail.

That means quite a percentage of learners are never included in the final analysis. This figure, I am certain, does not get reviewed to include the entire number of children—that is private candidates.

What is interesting is that many schools do this so that they can attract bright learners to their schools, while also fooling the school committees and those who do not know.


But, this only serves to make pawns of our children, and for what? Someone must save us this misery, and take us to the first world status, so that we are out of this shithole, as Donald Trump said.

The point here is that schools are cheating the system, and we are allowing them.

 This is no longer benefitting the education system, but taking us backward all the time. I heard for instance how one school with a dismal percentage failure last year, applied the strategy this year.

 The result is an incredible turn around, and I am sure the principal in that school will be the toast of the region. We should therefore ask ourselves what happens to the children who are made to be private candidates, who do not get their results until after the mainstream media has released the results? How does this affect them? By the time their results are given to them, the entire nation is of the opinion they did not do well. We should move to abolish this system of private candidates. All learners must be known, so that we discourage this cheating by schools. Or let us scrap this external exam nonsense. It is a product of our colonial past anyway.

It was interesting to observe how the schools that teach the matric syllabus conducted themselves in the same situation.

The results for these schools are known the same time they are released. No farce. Pupils know how to access them, and there is no hiding of candidates.

Never mind that matric only bothers itself with the Grade 12 results, and not the Grade Nine, but the system is so transparent it leaves one green with envy.

Anyway, the point of this article is to make us realise how we are not moving forward by insisting on a backward meaningless syllabus. Whatever our views on the IGCSE, it is no longer what we had back then, and no wonder many of our children are moving toward the matric syllabus.


But, to the extent we are aiming toward becoming a first world country, our ministry needs to take a seriously look in the mirror and tell us if it seems us, beyond 2022, still pushing our children for a Grade Seven external examination, and the junior certificate one. If not then when will it end.


They should tell us what the point is for these exams, instead of simply doing away with them. Besides, it probably worked back then when one could only obtain a JC certificate that you would go on to do something with your life.


In this day and age, you could not even get a job as a bus conductor with it.


 This set up only goes to show how we are not progressing, and stuck in the ways of the past.

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