GRADE Seven and Form Six students started writing their final examinations yesterday, the beginning of a marathon of public tests that will also be taken by children in Form Four until early next year.
Grade Sevens tackled Zimbabwe School Examinations Council English Paper One and Mathematics Paper One yesterday while Upper Sixth formers wrote Shona, Tonga, Ndebele, Tshivenda and Xichangana languages Paper One as well as Accounting Paper One. Form Fours will begin their exams tomorrow with Mathematics and Commerce Paper One.
Grade Sevens will take their last paper on Friday next week. Ordinary Level students will be busy until the closure of schools this year on December 17, break for the festive period until January 3 next year. The last Form Four paper for the 2021 round of public tests will be on January 31, 2022. Advanced Level students will be similarly busy until schools close on December 17, break for the Christmas and New Year holidays to resume on January 3, 2022. Their last paper would be on January 24, 2022.
We must indicate that the 2021 exit tests started on Monday last week with O-level learners doing their final practicals but the big day for most exam-writing pupils was yesterday.
It will be a marathon indeed, one that is being run in this way because of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The disease has posed a big challenge not only on the academic calendar but also on the teaching and learning process since it broke out in March last year.
The Government ordered the closure of schools in March last year, keeping them shut until September last year when students writing public exams in that year returned to class.
Schools closed three months later, and were expected to reopen on January 4 this year but the second wave of the pandemic forced their continued closure up to March. Teaching and learning ran up to June but the onset of the third wave of the viral infection made it impossible for schools to resume on June 28.
The Government postponed their re-opening to August 30 when exam-writing pupils trooped back to class. Schools are expected to close on December 17.
The disturbance caused by Covid-19 on the academic calendar has been serious. Pupils lost long periods of learning, but the Government, supported by development partners put in place a strategy under which online learning was blended with face-to-face instruction. National radios and television have assisted in the new learning and teaching model that Covid-19 has enforced.
We are happy that the Government, development partners, parents, guardians and educators have united to work around the disruption that the pandemic has visited upon the education sector. Our hope is that the students who started writing their final examinations yesterday were fully prepared for their most important tests.
However, a successful round of final examinations will be one that is not disrupted further by Covid-19. We look forward to examinations running smoothly again this year as they did in 2020, with no outbreaks of the disease at learning institutions.
Schools are bound to enforce the standard operating procedures to be able to effectively monitor the health of students and staff and be able to speedily respond if any challenges are identified or suspected.
School authorities must make sure that all pupils wear face masks properly and all the time; they must wash their hands regularly with soap or sanitiser and they must practise social distancing.
Parents and guardians have a role to play too by buying face masks, soap and sanitiser for their charges. They must also complement teachers’ efforts by encouraging their charges to follow measures to curb the disease.
We hope pupils will take their examinations in a safe environment and that they will do well to enable them to move to the next stage in their lives — Form One, Lower Sixth, college or university or the job market.