IT is now becoming a tradition that each Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examination cycle is dogged by controversy of some sort.
If it is not careless teachers losing examination papers in public transport vehicles, it would be headmasters getting caught writing exams for their students.
Over the years, Zimsec itself has also been facing serious administrative problems such as failing to pay markers on time and bungling results for some students.
The problems have had a serious dent on the country’s education system forcing some parents to stick to the United Kingdom’s Cambridge exams.
However, the Cambridge International Examination board — which up to the late 1990s worked in collaboration with the Zimbabwe government to organise secondary school examinations — is not accessible to ordinary people because it is very expensive.
This is why falling standards at Zimsec are a great concern to parents who continue to struggle to send their children to school because of the country’s economic situation.
Therefore, the latest controversy surrounding the Grade 7 Ndebele October paper that contained slang and inappropriate language for primary school pupils is a great cause for concern.
The final examination paper that was written last week contained words that most pupils are not exposed to both at home and school.
A question that triggered controversy was under the grammar section of Ulimi where a sentence contained slang such as ikhikhitha, isifebe and umangumba (prostitutes) was posed to the Grade 7 students.
These are not words most 12-year-olds who sat for the paper are expected to know as they are not taught in primary schools.
Words such as otopi (fathers), amasalala, and makhiwa (bosses in slang, but white in proper Ndebele) are clearly a corruption of the Ndebele language and not formal.
The slang is not only inappropriate for that age group, but is not mainstream language that can be understood by students from rural schools.
Zimsec, by allowing this mediocrity, has already condemned a good number of students to fail.
The paper also raises questions about the examinations body’s quality controls if such papers could pass for a final year examination.
Zimsec has to get to the bottom of this matter and give the nation a convincing response to this shameless dereliction of duty.
The government also has to make sure that heads roll at the examinations body because this is highly unacceptable.