Editorial: Two wrongs won’t make a right, neither in math nor in life. Fix it!

Tilaye Gete (PhD), Ethiopia’s Minister of Education

Addis Abeba, September 06/2019 – When a national exam scandal of this proportion happens, there is a need for a system that must set itself in motion for a thorough and objective investigation. In the absence of technology supported and/or factually verifiable mechanism of correcting the consequences of the wrongful act (which in this case is very difficult, but not impossible), the normal practice in situations of these nature (note that this is not new, as many other countries have experienced similar incidents) is to accept the results for what they are-the only way to make sure that not even a single innocent student ends up being punished for a wrong s/he has never been part of.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education, under the leadership of Dr. Tilaye Gete, has instead taken a completely different path by entirely cancelling part of the national exam which will inevitably mean thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent students will end up having their results affected. This exam has cost hundreds of millions of Birr to administer and here we are scrambling to firefight what may perhaps be considered as the worst scandal in national exam administration history.

Few years back when this exam was stolen and dumped on the Internet, the government prescribed a lame dose of solution that made us live with a nation-wide internet blackout every time a national exam is being administered. That comes with a cost, as the country bleeds in millions of dollars in everyday revenue losses due to negative effects on businesses and government operations. Four years or so down the line, we haven’t found an enduring solution to keep the exam’s integrity without internet blackout. A very interesting evidence has occasioned itself this time which openly disproves the earlier prescription as utterly wrong, because even in the face of internet blackout, we cannot have an authentic exam administration and/or result.

When such things happen in other countries, an immediate action is taken against those identified perpetrators following an investigation. As recently as in 2019, Vietnam experienced cases of national exam irregularities and the documented measures are there for us to learn from. Both in the United States and the United Kingdom such incidents are rampant though they all share commonalities in terms of shying away from penalizing the students, even those who may have, in the process, unduly benefited from the frauds.

Guilt is made to fall where the blame is: impartial organ investigates, prosecutes and penalizes those responsible while maintaining exam results. As our Ministry’s news content indicated, the decision made by its officials (federal and regional bureau heads) is made to appear as having no negative consequences, but the message this sends to the wrongdoers is loud and clear. The sections of the national exam for which so much resource has been wasted is nullified for a known reason of irregularities which makes the decision, with regrets of using the word, nothing short of an act of cowardice.

A form of watchdog institution like the Ethiopian Institution of the Ombudsman (EIO) should start, as a matter of urgency, looking into these irregularities that have victimized the future generation of the country. Once the investigation is complete, the findings must be made public with possible reference of the perpetrators for criminal prosecution together with recommendations for an immediate administrative measure. AS 

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