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Grade 7 Ndebele Exam Paper Angers Zimbabweans in SA

  • Tatenda Gumbo

A group of Zimbabweans based in South Africa is expected to march to the Zimbabwe Embassy on Friday to protest what it calls the use of fouling language in this year’s Grade 7 Ndebele examination paper.

This comes at a time when teachers started marking the Ndebele paper Friday in various centers nationwide.

The controversy started after Grade 7 candidates showed their parents the examination paper which uses derogatory language to describe sex workers.

Indications are that the fouling language is not usually used in most households. One of the words referred to prostitution and another is slang for commercial sex workers.

In response to the concern, the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council said its policy was to set papers that are not limited to geography and space and intends to cover all types of candidates in society.

In a statement released by ZIMSEC, director Esau Shingirai Nhandara, said fouling questions in the examination were drawn from people’s experiences.

“In the paper there are three passages, the first passage deals with an urban set up, the second passage deals with a rural set up whereas the last passage is a general one for all candidates,” he said, noting that this would mean no candidate group was advantaged over the other.

The words used in a passage depicting a set-up of a kombi taxi rank, said ZIMSEC included words used by taxi conductors. He said the language is used in a socio-linguistic context.

Nhandara said the examination papers normally go through various stages before they are approved by language experts and examiners.

“The paper undergoes several stages of approval by Ndebele language experts from four regions that teach the subject. The paper is set by ten experts from Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands and Bulawayo,” said Nhandara

He said the experts include college Ndebele lecturers both at primary and secondary level who train teachers, education experts and practicing primary classroom teachers.

But the response for ZIMSEC hasn’t convinced some educationists, parents and teachers, with many saying the examinations body has missed the point on appropriate content for primary school pupils.

For perspective VOA spoke to educationist and teacher, Abiot Moyo, and Bulwayo East Member of Parliament Thabitha Khumalo.

Khumalo said the actions by the examination board were deplorable and inappropriate.
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