THE Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) public examinations started yesterday with candidates expressing satisfaction with the level of Covid-19 preparedness at examination centres.
Ordinary level candidates sat for English Paper 1 in the morning and Combined Science Paper 1 in the afternoon.
Advanced Level candidates wrote Literature in English Paper 1 in the morning and Chemistry Paper 1 in the afternoon.
A majority of the candidates were supplementing previously failed subjects.
The candidates said the schools had adequately prepared following Covid-19 prevention measures while teachers’ unions said the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had not done enough to get schools ready for the public examinations.
Miss Grace Moyo, who was writing Combined Science at Mpopoma High School, said the school told them to arrive 45 minutes before the actual sitting.
“This was to allow for sanitisation of hands, among other issues that relate to Covid-19. When we arrived at the school, they recorded our personal details, where we stay, cellphone numbers among other things,” said Miss Moyo, who aspires to study Accounting at Bulawayo Polytechnic.
She said she initially wrote her O-Levels in 2018 before relocating to South Africa.
Miss Moyo said it was difficult to prepare for the examination due to Covid-19 as she could not study with other candidates.
Another private candidate who wrote the same examination, Miss Sandile Ncube, said they were checked for temperature when they arrived at the examination centre.
“After that we were sanitised and face masks were given to those who did not have them. I think they did everything that is required to ensure that no one is exposed to Covid-19. Soon after writing the examination, we were told to leave the premises,” said Miss Ncube.
Takunda Moyo, a Form Six student at Mpopoma High School, said Covid-19-induced national lockdown affected him in preparing for the examinations.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of Covid-19 adherence at school.
In Gweru, examinations commenced as scheduled amid concerns from Zimta that not all schools had adhered to Covid-19 prevention measures.
While most urban schools have been producing PPEs, rural schools across the Midlands province were found wanting as pupils were forced to bring their own face masks.
Transport was another challenge as there were no Zupco buses or commuter omnibuses designated for pupils going to schools such as Fletcher, Chaplin and Thornhill high schools from suburbs such as Mkoba and Senga in Gweru.
“Learners didn’t have transport and we hope tomorrow it will be there. We asked for a thermometer from the local clinic because we can’t afford one but we are glad the examinations went on well,” said a headmaster from a school in Mkoba suburb, on condition of anonymity.
In Matabeleland South, Provincial Education Director, Mr Bernard Mazambani said the province had 81 examination centres with public tests being conducted without incident.
“As a province we ensured that we were prepared for the opening of schools for examination writing. We have teams moving around schools monitoring the process and we haven’t received reports of problems. Social distancing is being observed at our examination centres. We have set up a number of points where candidates can sanitise their hands to avoid delays and invigilators were adequately trained,” said Mr Mazambani.
“Temperatures are being checked at all centres. We got 40 more thermometers in addition to those which were bought by institutions and those provided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care which has enabled us to use more than one thermometer at centres with many candidates.”
In Matabeleland North, examinations started well in Hwange District. Zimsec had to settle for Chamabondo Primary School as an alternative centre as Mosi-oa-Tunya High School is being used as a quarantine centre for returning residents.
A news crew visited Chamabondo Primary School and observed conventional and private candidates queued at the gate for temperature check and hand washing. They were all wearing masks while teachers were helping them to maintain social distancing as they filed towards the seven examination rooms set for the exercise.
The candidates had their hands sanitised again in the examination rooms where sitting arrangement was two metres apart.
Mosi-oa-Tunya High School head Mr Roland Sibanda said 208 Ordinary and Advanced level candidates registered with the school for the June examinations.
“We had a challenge notifying all candidates but the majority have come. We’ve some coming from as far as Robins Camp who had a challenge with network as they were locked there but we finally managed to reach them. We’ve tried to enforce all recommended regulations and we are thankful to the municipality because they disinfected the centres yesterday. For the practical examinations, we have been informed that we can use ours at Mosi-oa-Tunya which is a relief because we were wondering how we were going to manage here,” said Mr Sibanda.
His counterpart at Mkhosana Seventh Day Adventist Mr Ndabezinhle Masuku said they addressed the candidates about safety issues before the examination.
Covid-19 education material was distributed and pasted at entrance points at both schools.
Zimta president, Mr Richard Gundani, said the exams went on against their will.
He said no teachers had been tested for Covid-19 yet they went on and conducted the examinations putting the lives of learners at risk.
“Some schools didn’t have PPEs and so in a nutshell, the first phase of reopening of schools was marked with gaps. But we will tag along in spite of all this. As Zimta and other unions we issued a cautionary statement saying this has happened against our advice because not all the schools have totally complied with Covid-19 prevention measures,” said Mr Gundani.
Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Mr Patrick Zumbo said the ministry was satisfied with the first day of public examinations.
“The examination started well and we haven’t heard any concerns from candidates. We are very happy with how the examinations have commenced,” said Mr Zumbo.