The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu and Christopher Hombiro
The 2022 public examinations will begin this month, with all exams set to be completed before year-end, for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 more than two years ago.
Schools open for the third term tomorrow, amid high expectations of heightened return to normal learning on account of the subsiding global pandemic.
According to the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), the number of candidates registered to sit for this year’s public examination has increased considerably as a result of dissipating effects of the pandemic.
While most public Covid-19 prevention protocols have been relaxed, the Government will this term continue to enforce schools’ Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place to contain the contagion in learning institutions
Grade Seven candidates will sit for their first examination on September 26 and finish on October 10.
Ordinary and Advanced Level candidates will kick off the exam season with practical tests on September 16 and finish on November 29.
Zimsec has also received most candidates’ submissions for the Continuous Learning Assessment Activities (CALA) components, with only one module remaining.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director communications and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said schools this term will focus on preparing pupils for examinations to help increase pass rates.
“There were fewer disruptions this year by the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the last two years, so we expect the examinations to be completed this year. The exams will not be spilling over to next year as what was happening over the past two years,” he said.
“So much focus will be on this year’s examination classes as well as next year’s examination classes so that we increase the pass rate.”
He said normalcy was slowly returning to schools after two years of disruptions.
“So we expect to slowly start returning to our normal school calendar. We will, however, continue with our online lessons which include radio lessons.”
He said pupils will continue to wear face masks indoors, while some high-risk sporting activities remain suspended.
“We are guided by the National Covid-19 Taskforce, therefore, masks will continue to be worn indoors at schools as well as enforcement of other Covid-19 protocols such as basic hygiene of sanitising, hand washing and avoiding overcrowding,” he added.
“In terms of sporting, at the moment we will continue to use the circular that was issued during the second term and we will be guided by the Covid-19 taskforce and Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.”
Zimsec board chairperson Professor Eddie Mwenje said the number of pupils who registered for this year’s exams has increased compared to the last two years.
“We are still compiling the figures and they will be ready next week (this week),” he said.
“However, we expect the numbers to increase. For instance, there is an increase in the number of English Language candidates this year compared to last year,” he said.
“This indicates that Covid-19 had a negative impact on the education sector on communities and on teachers. This affected learning and examinations.”
National Association of School Heads (NASH) president Mr Arthur Maphosa said Government’s Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) programme was responsible for the increased enrolment.
He said there were limited disturbances caused by Covid-19 and job action by teachers this year.
“We will be better prepared than the previous years because of the decline in Covid-19 cases which gave students a chance to go to school.
“This year we had face-to-face learning for all the three terms and did not have challenges with the incapacitation of teachers.
“In addition, the CALA was better handled than last year. Last year we had to do three projects in three months. So it is all systems go.”
Meanwhile, Government has enhanced the monitoring of schools levying tuition fees exclusively in foreign currencies.
Last week, the Ministry of Education engaged the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate learning institutions demanding tuition fees exclusively in United States dollars in contravention of the law.
Mr Ndoro said authorities will “take action” against offending schools.
“We do not approve fees in US dollars, however, the Government has said those with free funds to pay in foreign currency can do so,” he said.
“However, this does not mean that fees can be charged exclusively in US dollars.
“We will also rope in other arms of the Government to help us to enforce compliance by schools.”
Central Harare was a hive of activity yesterday as parents and guardians made last-minute preparations for schools opening.
Parents who spoke to this publication expressed concern over some retailers taking advantage of the last-minute rush to hike prices of their goods.
Ms Grace Hwata of Budiriro suburb in Harare said some retailers were taking advantage of the situation.
“Some retailers, especially those who are into providing school materials have hiked their prices and we are really concerned,” she said.
“I think authorities should investigate some of these shops.”
Some outlets were, however, offering discounted prices on the back of falling prices of goods and services in the economy.
One major outlet that sells school shoes has placed some of its products on promotion.