Monday, October 29, 2007

Poor preps botched MSCE exams

…leakages come about due to fewer papers printed
By Rex Chikoko
The 2007 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations fiasco was caused by Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) poor preparations. Malawi News has established.

This years MSCE examination, costing a whopping K218 million of the tax-payers money—was total chaotic with examination papers flying all over the country before the date for writing the papers were due, candidates writing photocopied examinations, while others being quarantined waiting for examinations papers while examinations were in progress.

Malawi News investigations revealed that Maneb made several preparatory mistakes ranging from changing examinations printing companies, ordering fewer examinations papers to late delivery of examinations to the centres.

A South African based company Universal Printers—specialised in production of point-of-sale items, signage, cartons, magazines, telephone directories, direct mail products, self-adhesive and unsupported labels—won the contract to print MSCE examinations out-favouring a UK based company Stephen Austin & Sons, specialists in production and distribution services for examination and Assessment Authorities worldwide.

Stephen Austin & Sons have been printing examinations for the Malawi in the past.

In a specified tendering, opened in January this year, four foreign companies’ submitted tenders to print the 2007 examinations. The companies included Stephen Austin & Sons, Kadimah, Universal Printers and Government Printers. Apart from Stephen Austin & Sons all the companies were South African based.

According to Malawi News’ highly placed source at Maneb, despite Stephen Austin & Sons emerging the winner of the tender, South African printing companies won the printing of MSCE and Junior Certificate Examinations.

In August 2007 high powered officials left the country for South Africa for final monitoring of examinations where it was reported that everything was going as planned.

However a hitch came about when the printers would not deliver examinations in the required seven days before the commerce of the examinations and late discovery that fewer papers were printed against the registered number of this year’s candidates.

Universal Print Group Export Business Development Manager Neville Gurriah, in an email response, said the Supply Agreement with Maneb, due to the confidential nature of the scope of work undertaken - precludes the organisation from communicating with any third parties on any matter.

“We trust that you will understand our position,” Girriah said.

MSCE examinations arrived in the country between October 6 – 8, 2007 a day before the official commencement of the examinations on the October 9, 2007 leaving Maneb with less that 24 hours to inspect, verify and distribute the examination national wide.

Surprisingly in the finance budget of the 2007 finance budget report –appendix 11 under Printing Expenses vote number 630, Maneb set aside K66, 171, 734 as printing costs which included K20, 428,424 for Air Freight, but this years examinations came into the by road.

“The packaging was poorly done because at Police Headquarters in Lilongwe where they offloaded the examinations they discovered that plastic papers they used to wrap containing examination envelops busted.

“Normally examinations are expected to come in a well sealed cartons but it was not the case with MSCE. The examinations were sealed in plastic wrappings,” said the source.

The source said it was discovered that close to 89,000 papers of the 2007 MSCE examinations were printed despite registering about 101,000 candidates for the same examinations.

The discovery of paper shortage resulted to the authorization of photocopying of the examinations and the activity was being carried out in the Manuscript Section of Maneb office.

However the problem soared when the machine in the Manuscript section broken down and the photocopying of the examinations was transferred to Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) offices in Domasi, Zomba.

An official at Domasi on condition anonymity confirmed that on Wednesday October 17, 2007 Maneb officials sought the services of the printing office but he could not elaborate.

Despite Maneb authorities discrediting the leaked eaminations papers as bogus several arrests were made however the police said they were not really involved on the arrests and they would be waiting for a report from Maneb on what transpired.

Police headquarters spokesperson Willie Mwaluka said although several arrests have been made involving the 2007 MSCE examinations, the police had no information because the police involved in the arrests were hired by Maneb.

“Those officers were officially hired by Maneb and anything to do with examinations is handled by Maneb officials. We will be waiting for official report on how many were arrested after the examinations,” Mwaluka said.

But through regional and district police public relations offices Malawi News established that three people were arrested at Soche Technical cluster centre, two people were arrested in Machinga, three people were arrested in the central region while at a Maneb official caught the whole class Natola CDSS going through examinations papers at night and two were arrested in Chitipa at least one person was arrested.

Soche Technical cluster centre Blantyre Secondary School, Chichiri Secondary School and Likangala Secondary school were some of the centres where quarantine due to shortage of papers was taking place on daily basis. In these schools photocopied examinations were being provided to cover up for the shortage.

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