THE Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) board met last week and agreed to proceed with preparations for the 2021 examinations, despite the fact that schools remain closed and there hasn’t been much learning due to lockdowns.
Extra lessons also remain banned, and most who are supposed to sit for examinations have not done much learning outside the first term which was cut short due to the pandemic, except for a few privileged learners whose families afford the internet.
Out of a possible 15 months, which learners should have spent in school since January 2020, Zimbabwe has only managed six broken down to three towards the end of last year and three from March to June this year when the country had its first term.
This means that in terms of learning there is a nine-month deficit.
ZIMSEC, who manage national examinations in the country are proceeding with preparations, told the Sunday Mail that they decided to proceed with preparations as they await direction from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“Our job as you know is to make preparations and we had a board meeting last week. We are on course in our preparations despite Covid-19 challenges,” the ZIMSEC Board Chairperson Professor Eddie Mwenje said.
The examination body’s public relations manager Nicky Dhlamini said input from various stakeholders will be considered when the final dates for the 2021 examinations are announced.
“ZIMSEC is at the tail-end of the education cycle. In terms of students learning, that is under the purview of the parent Ministry. Our examination dates will be approved by Cabinet, before we announce them. All considerations will be taken into account before that happens,” she said.
Director of communications in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Taungana Ndoro said the decision will be informed by the ongoing engagements with key players in education.
“We need to get guidance from ZIMSEC and other stakeholders, then we advise the President through Cabinet. He will make the final determination,” said Ndoro.
He said the ministry is ready to listen to wisdom on which dates are best, even if it means that the exams spill into next year.
“Some examinations like practicals need learners to attend lessons physically, so we are going to listen to stakeholders. ZIMSEC has not yet released their timetable, they can only do so when the school calendar has been released.
“If they open around September, we will sit down with all stakeholders and see what the earliest possible time to have credible examinations is. If it happens in November, the same process will apply,” said Ndoro.
He assured parents that the final decision will be made in the best interest of learners.
“Parents should not be afraid. We are going to be thorough in our decision making. We are not going to impose a date which would not have been born out of consultation from key stakeholders,” he said.
Cabinet recently set preparations for reopening in motion when it told schools and parents to start putting measures in place for the eventual return of academic activity. However, the date is yet to be announced.
Predictions are that as the Covid-19 situation seems to be improving and the vaccination figures are rising, schools may reopen within the next few weeks.
The new term will be unique in that the Delta variant which is dominating Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe and the world, now affects children.
This means that in the event of a fourth wave, which experts are already predicting, there may be a need to close schools quicker than in the past — bringing to the fore the question: Can exams be written this year?