Easy social distancing as O&A-Level exams resume Pupils head home after writing their examinations yesterday

Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) examinations for Ordinary and Advanced Levels resumed yesterday after a two-week break, with officials saying everything went on smoothly.

O-Level Biology as well as English Literature and Physics for A-Level were sat for yesterday and the last exams will be on January 31.

Due to Covid-19, which disrupted learning, public examinations spilled into this year and pupils had to return to school after the last papers on December 17.

Those in non-examination classes remain home after Government deferred schools opening from January 10 to a date yet to be announced due to the threat posed by the virus.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Mr Taungana Ndoro said because there are no other classes, it made it easier for them to implement social distancing for those writing exams.

“We are very lucky that the exams are being written in an environment where the other learners aren’t there.

So social distancing is very easy to implement. We can make use of more infrastructure than is necessary and we can have more spacing than the spacing that we normally have,” said Mr Ndoro.

He said day one of the examinations went without a glitch as they followed Standard Operating Procedures and WHO protocols.

“The exams around the country started off smoothly, especially in Bulawayo.

We have gone around schools with City Health department making sure that all schools are adhering to protocols of Covid-19.

We are making sure that the standard procedures are in place, such as having thermometers, hand washing bays and the like,” said Mr Ndoro.

“Biology Paper Two, English Literature for A-Level, Physics for A-Level and it all went smoothly and we are glad that even the invigilation process went well.

Our noble and responsive teachers came to the party and managed to invigilate very well so it’s all systems go and there are no challenges and we don’t anticipate challenges until the exams are over.”

Asked what happens to pupils that test positive, Mr Ndoro said the Ministry and schools have put in place measures for that eventuality.

“Even if pupils will test positive, we should remember there is availability of infrastructure as other learners aren’t there.

We have the Standard Operating Procedures, where we shall isolate those who test positive and they continue to write their exams.

We take those who are positive and put them in one classroom, ensure there is still social distancing and handwashing, wearing of face masks,” said Mr Ndoro.

The country’s schools’ calendar has been disrupted by the pandemic which forced schools to close for long periods since 2020 as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus.

When schools finally opened the learning time was reduced as pupils had to alternate after the size of classes was reduced to enable them to maintain social distancing.

Some pupils tested positive to Covid-19 at a number of schools, those at boarding schools had to wait until the required isolation period was over before they could go home.

As part of efforts to reduce the Covid-19 risk, medical authorities declared Sinopharm vaccine safe for children aged 16 and above and the Ministry of Health and Child Care sent teams to most secondary schools to vaccinate pupils in the age groups.

Government has also come up with the e-learning strategy and radio lessons for pupils as part of measures to reduce human interactions in schools and a number of efforts were in place to give more pupils practical access to these lessons.

Government has also warned schools not to hike school fees without going through the proper procedures and encouraged them to have payment plans available if parents needed these so that no learners will be disturbed.

At the same time, Government’s own BEAM programme has been expanded so that up to a third of pupils at public schools can have tuition fees and uniforms covered. — @bonganinkunzi

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