By Ntsebeng Motsoeli
MASERU — Every year the actors change but the script remains the same.
To a large extent the audience has become accustomed to the circus.
Not a single year has passed over the past few years without a “scandal” of some sort hitting our national school examinations.
This year the trend continued.
The Examination Council of Lesotho (Ecol) last week withheld Junior Certificate (JC) examination results for five schools.
Observers say it now looks like an endemic culture of corruption has permeated our school system threatening its integrity.
These corrupt practices appear to cut across the whole school system.
The practice has been reported from Primary School Leaving Examinations right up to the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate examinations.
There have been reports of students brazenly cheating during exams with some exam papers finding their way into the hands of students before exams.
These practices have been an embarrassing blot on our school system.
Announcing the results on Wednesday, Education Minister Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla said the ministry was withholding results for candidates they suspected to have cheated during the exams.
The affected schools were Takalatsa Secondary School, Mafa Secondary School, Mohale Combined School, Makhobalo High School, Moruthoane AME Secondary School and St Denis High School.
However, students from Makhobalo High School received their results on Thursday.
The decision to withhold results has however been quite traumatic for some students.
Matséliso Marou, (not her real name), said she felt her life had been thrown into chaos by the decision to withhold the results.
Marou was a JC candidate at Moruthoane AME Secondary School.
She said she had been waiting anxiously over the past two months for her results.
But on Wednesday, Marou and other candidates got the shock of their lives when it was announced that they were not going to get their results.
She said the announcement was like a bolt from the blue.
“I was shocked when I heard that my school was among those that would not receive their results.
“I did not believe my ears and ran to my mother and told her what I heard over the radio,” Marou told the Sunday Express.
She said her mother frantically ran around the village to confirm the news with neighbours.
“I was crying so much thinking that my dreams to proceed to the higher school level were about to be shattered,” she said.
She said her mother came home disappointed after neighbours confirmed the radio announcement.
“She tried to convince me that I had not heard the name properly and that it was only a similarity in the names of the schools.
“But I did not buy her explanation,” she said.
She said her mother later called one woman who worked at the school who said she was not aware of the report.
Marou said on Thursday, she checked her results on her mobile phone.
To her utter horror, she received an sms on her mobile phone stating that her results were still pending.
“I cried out loud. I was hurting. I wanted my results so badly to see how I had performed,” Marou said.
She said her worst fear was that she would have to go back to school and repeat the JC class for yet another year.
And if that would be the case, she would be doing the class for the third time.
“I am not looking forward to doing the JC class for the third time.
“I had failed the class before and last year I had put all the effort I could muster to pass. I had a good feeling that I had passed this time around.
“Having to do the class once again will really hold back my dreams to complete high school,” she said.
The head teacher at Moruthoane AME Secondary School, Madada Radebe, said he was just as shocked as the students when the minister made the announcement.
Radebe said it was unfair for Ecol to announce only a night before the publication of the results that they would not receive their results.
He said he had not been officially informed by the education ministry or Ecol that his school’s results would be withheld.
“Ecol did not warn us that our results were pending. I only heard it from some parents who called us to clarify what they had heard over the radio.
“We were shocked when we did not receive the results as they were said to be pending,” Radebe said.
He said he only got received a letter warning him of the pending results when he went to the Ecol offices on Thursday, the day the results were published.
“The letter was dated December 6, 2009. It said that our school’s results were pending due to some irregularities which occurred during the examinations.
“Our students were suspected to have copied the Science Paper II. The explanation I got from Ecol was that the wrong answers had been erased and replaced with correct ones,” he said.
Radebe said teachers at the school had vehemently denied having anything to do with the cheating.
He said they would hold a meeting with the parents and students to discuss the matter tomorrow.
He however said if Ecol decides to hold back the results while investigations are underway it would be a waste of students’ time.
“There should be a way out of this. If Ecol has doubts about the conduct of the examinations, they should have a standby question paper for the students to write,” he said.
He said the allegations, if not independently verified, would tarnish the reputation of the school.
“Our school’s reputation will be tainted. We are a proper school with a proper administration no matter how poor our school looks in other people’s eyes,” he said.
The Ecol registrar could not be reached for comment.