Patrick Chitumba and Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporters
Candidates registered for Zimsec Grade 7, O-level and A-level examinations will write as scheduled, starting today, with reports that of the 4,5 million learners in the country, only about 300 have contracted the deadly Covid-19 pandemic since the opening of schools in September.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has also put in place obligatory processes to ascertain the safety of candidates and invigilators during the course of the examinations.
Pupils sitting for examinations who have tested or may test Covid-19 positive will sit for their exams under special health protocols, that include sitting in isolated exam rooms with strict monitoring by caregivers under strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as guided by Ministry of Health and Child Care and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Examination centres have also been disinfected in line with Ministry of Health and Child Care guidelines.
Thermometers, disinfectants, face masks, wash facilities and hand sanitisers have been procured for all examination centres to combat Covid-19.
Standard Operating Procedures have been invoked at schools such as John Tallach Secondary School in Ntabazinduna and Anderson High School in Gweru, Chinhoyi High School in Chinhoyi and Matopo High School in Matobo to curb further spread of the deadly virus.
Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations start today while Grade Seven candidates start writing on Thursday.
Practical examinations, however, started two weeks ago.
Zimbabwe had by last Sunday recorded 9 950 Cases 8 482 recoveries and 276 deaths with Bulawayo leading in terms of active cases.
So far, the country has 1 192 active cases and 449 of those are in Bulawayo while Harare has 128.
Director of communication in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Taungana Ndoro urged parents and guardians not to panic as the Government had put in place measures to ensure safety of pupils and teachers.
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the learners are ready for the Zimsec examinations that start today. Our SOPs are in place and will be invoked as and when a candidate or teacher invigilating exhibits any signs of Covid -19,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said the Grade Seven, O and A-level candidates had completed their syllabi with a few exceptions.
“We are also very confident that the pupils are going to pass the exams as they have successfully completed the syllabi for Grade Seven, O and A-level. As the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, we urge all parents and guardians not to panic about the writing of the Zimsec exams as their children will be safe as school authorities will strictly adhere to SOPs during the exams,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said pupils who have contracted Covid-19 will write in isolation and the examination rooms will be disinfected continuously to mitigate against the spread of the virus.
“Of the more than 4,5 million learners in the country about 300 have been affected by Covid-19 and that is roughly 0,006 percent so there is no need to panic.
“This translates to less than 10 schools nationwide out of the 9 625 schools we have or say 0.1 percent of schools so let’s be calm and allow the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to carry out its mandate of providing inclusive, equitable, relevant, quality and wholesome education for all Zimbabweans,” said Mr Ndoro.
He said the Ministry was happy because more than 80 percent of teachers were back at work teaching and preparing the learners for the examinations.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima said it was unfortunate that there have been positive Covid-19 cases recorded in some schools in the country at a time when the public examinations are being held.
“It’s rather unfortunate that a few schools have recorded Covid-19 cases and the Government is not taking it lightly. But by and large and because we have been following SOPs, the cases haven’t been that much. Yes, they are there and we are concerned.
If the cases become very pronounced, if they become very serious, the Government led by President Mnangagwa will surely force the closure of the schools,” he said.
Last week, the Government released $150 million towards drilling boreholes at public schools to improve sanitation.
Prof Mavima said the Government is worried about the health and life of teachers and pupils.