Lost in Translation: MANEB’s MOB JUSTICE on Candidates and Teachers of English

In a baffling turn of events, the Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB) has unleashed its own form of “Mob Justice” on unsuspecting candidates and teachers of English alike. By demanding students to write a letter on a topic that most of them are unfamiliar with, MANEB has left students feeling lost in translation and teachers of English grappling with the consequences of inadequate preparation. This bewildering move raises concerns about the fairness and inclusivity of the examination system, leaving many to question the true intentions behind such a decision.

As the Malawi School Certificate of Examination (MSCE) progresses, the recent English Paper One has brought to light a concerning issue that demands immediate attention. On Monday, 3rd July 2023, candidates were taken aback when the expected options for Section B, either speech or report, did not appear. Instead, they were presented with a letter entitled “MOB JUSTICE,” a topic unfamiliar to most of the students.

For many candidates, English is a second language, and their struggle with vocabulary became apparent when confronted with the unfamiliar term “MOB JUSTICE.” With limited vocabulary and inadequate preparation for a short story, students found themselves at a significant disadvantage. Unfortunately, some teachers neglected to instruct their students on how to write a short story due to laziness or lack of knowledge.

It is perplexing to expect teachers who have never written an original short story themselves to effectively guide their students in mastering this form of writing. As a result, a considerable number of students were left with no choice but to attempt the challenging letter question. This has had severe consequences for those students who, despite excelling in other subjects, now face the possibility of their future prospects being marred by a mere pass in English.

English serves as the medium of instruction in our educational system, and it is understandable that a certain level of proficiency is required. However, it is essential to question whether we should continue to punish students who excel in other subjects but struggle with English. Should one’s entire academic future be jeopardized due to a pass in a single subject?

The examination syllabus clearly states that Section B may consist of Two questions only from any of these types of composition – letters, reports, speeches, or short stories. Yet, it appears that some teachers of English are unaware of this crucial detail. Instead of blaming the examiners, we must acknowledge the responsibility of educators to thoroughly understand and communicate the syllabus to their students.

Moreover, it is time for examiners to consider the challenges faced by students who lack English proficiency while setting the paper. By incorporating more inclusive and accessible topics, students with exceptional abilities in other areas can have a fair chance to showcase their talents and pursue further studies.

We must not become complacent with the recurring practice of manipulating passing rates every year. It is unjust to subject students to arbitrary standards that do not reflect their overall abilities. Our education system should aim to uplift and empower students, providing equal opportunities for success in all subjects.

As we move forward, addressing these concerns and working towards a fairer and more comprehensive examination system is crucial. Students should not be deprived of opportunities simply because they lack fluency in English. Let us prioritize a holistic evaluation that recognizes our young learners’ diverse talents and potential.

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