The first day of National Examinations which kicked off with Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) was characterized by reports of COVID-19 affecting candidates who tested positive, prompting the Ministry of Education to find ways of how the affected students can sit their exams without any interruption.
Different from previous years, most offices in the Ministry of Education and affiliated institutions closed their office doors as Director -Generals and other top managers traveled to several parts of the country to launch the national examinations in various schools.
For the Ministers, it was not optional, they also closed offices and visited examination classrooms to “motivate and communicate a message of safety” to pupils who are sitting their final primary leaving examinations (PLE) at different centers.
The PLE candidates are writing national examinations for the first time in two years following the suspension of schools to prevent more spread of COVID-19 on March 14, 2020.
Dr. Valentine Umwariya, Minister of Education traveled to the Southern Province, Kamonyi district at Groupe Scholaire Ruyenzi, in Kamonyi district. The education State Minister for Primary and Secondary schools, Gaspard Twagirayezu traveled in Eastern province, and the Minister of State for Education in charge of ICT and TVET, Claudette Irere was at Groupe Scholaire Remera Catholique located in Kigali city.
The district mayors, Sector Executive Secretaries, and all education officers at all levels are also among examination monitors.
“We urge everyone involved in this process, this includes invigilators and students to fight Covid-19 while sitting for exams, this includes keeping the windows and doors open, social distance and always put on masks to protect,” Claudette Irere, the state minister for ICT and TVET.
“If any of them shows a sign, or report not feeling well, they should immediately be put in the isolation room,” Irere said.
Irere noted that invigilators have roles to play, most especially, making sure that pupils are safe while writing exams at the examination centers.
At 9:00 am, Richard Mutabazi, Mayor of Bugesera district rang the bell, allowing pupils to start reading questionnaires and answering Mathematics exams.
The PLE exams will run for three days, with candidates sitting for a total of five subjects, starting with mathematics and social and religious studies on July 12, then July 13 candidates will do science and elementary technology and Kinyarwanda and finally English on July 14.
“The Covid-19 cases keep increasing, but so far, we have about 60 candidates that have tested positive. However, all students will be given chances to write their primary living examinations,” Gaspard Twagirayezu, the Minister of State for Education in charge of Primary and Secondary Education said.
“All candidates are expected to sit for examinations, apart from those who could be in critical conditions due to the Covid-19. The isolated rooms have been prepared in all examination centers, in case of positive cases. Positive candidates will be given opportunities,” Twagirayezu said.
He added that all candidates have been briefed on the Covid-19 preventive measures and will continue to be guided by the examination supervisors to make sure that safety is guaranteed.
Guidelines for infected candidates
The Ministry of Education released infection, prevention, and control (IPC) guidelines for students in home-based care (HBC) who will be sitting for national examinations on Monday, July 12.
The guidelines are for students in primary six, senior three, senior six, and TVET level five who are in home-based care.
According to Dr. Uwamariya, all examination centers will have a separate examination room for students coming from HBC, which will be disinfected every day.
The nearest health facility will provide face masks (N95 or surgical masks), hand sanitizers, gloves, a nurse, or an IPC focal person at the examination Centre to support the implementation of covid-19 measures.
All students in HBC who will be sitting for national exams will be accompanied by a parent or a responsible relative when coming to the Centre and going back.
No student in HBC should sit for an exam when not feeling well, according to the new guidelines from the Ministry of Education.
Once a student completes his/her exam, the answer sheet will be collected by an invigilator (with gloves on), and kept with other student answer sheets.
There is no risk of contamination after 10 days, which is when the envelopes with these answer sheets will be opened.
All examination rooms should be well ventilated with open windows and doors.
“These candidates would have written their national examinations last year, but we postponed it because of the pandemic. This year, we were not sure if they would be done. But luckily, we have succeeded,” Dr. Uwamariya said.
“Those who started today will sit for examinations for three days. Other levels will also start sitting for examinations on the 20th. We hope all levels will do exams successfully, failure to do national examinations would cause more complex problems,” Dr. Uwamariya said.
So far, the Ministry on Monday confirmed that 57 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) candidates contracted Covid-19 but will continue to sit for primary level leaving exams in isolated rooms that were established in all examination centers across the country.
According to Twagirayezu, PLE candidates who contracted Covid-19 will be escorted by their relatives from their homes to the examination centers and back, after writing exams in the evening.
Over 700 miss examinations
As the PLE national examinations enter the second day, 751 candidates have reportedly missed day one exams in several parts of the country.
According to the reports from the northern province, 630 PLE candidates missed the examinations. District education officials said they were looking into possible reasons why these pupils did not come for exams.
A total of 35,656 candidates registered for the primary leaving exams in the five districts of Northern Province. However, 630 students did not attend the two first examinations on Monday 12.
In Gicumbi District, 238 pupils did not come for the first exam.
District officials said that 83 of the pupils had been living in Gihembe refugee camp before their relocation in March to Mahama camp in Kirehe District of the Eastern Province.
In Nyagatare district, Eastern province, 121 candidates also missed exams.
Edith Batamuriza, district education officer of Nyagatare district said that some candidates adamantly refused to attend.
“The reasons for failing to sit for examinations are different, some candidates shifted to other districts, and others refused to sit for the examinations adamantly. Whenever they officially visited their homes to ask why they didn’t attend, they ran away,” Batamuriza said.
According to the ministry of education, detailed reports about national pupils’ attendance will be released soon.
57 Covid-19 infected pupils attend
The examinations are taking place at the moment the government has tightened measures to control the surge in new coronavirus cases.
At least 57 students with mild symptoms attended the examinations countrywide, according to the Ministry of education.
Among those sitting for the exams in the Northern Province, 34 candidates were Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.
Today up to the end of August, candidates in Primary, ordinary, advanced secondary schools, and vocational schools will be writing their final examinations. All are set to write their exams despite COVID-19 challenges.