Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) Examinations candidates went about their business in easy gear yesterday, when random visits to some Southern Region and Northern Region examination centres indicated that some of the candidates had even eased down on Covid-19 preventive measures by disregarding social distancing regulation.
Other than that, peace prevailed in visited centres as candidates sat examinations that— without the massive leakage that marred last year’s examinations, leading to re-administration of the same this year— would have been part of the past that is 2020.
In Blantyre, we found that some of the Covid-19 prevention measures were being religiously followed while others were being ignored altogether.
For instance, while measures such as hand-washing in designated stations and the wearing of face masks were generally being followed, observance of the social-distancing measure was rated at zero.
Commenting on the examination itself, Zingwangwa Secondary School Head teacher Steven Kungala said the examination started well, with no tangible challenges to point at.
“Maneb gave us a full list of the materials that would be needed in practical examinations. You will recall that, for this examination, the government paid examination fees for all candidates, irrespective of their schools; so, there is no problem,” he said.
Kungala further said the Blantyre District Education Office made available allowances to those administering the examinations.
One of the candidates Osama Kankhande heaved a sigh of relief that the examinations were going on smoothly. He was also happy that all candidates would be facing the examinations without prior knowledge of what to expect.
“The leakage of the examinations was frustrating. Someone like me worked hard in class and, yet, someone was going to get higher grades than me simply because they had access to examination papers. That was unfair. I hope that this is not going to happen this time around,” he said.
In Mzuzu, there was tight security in most examination centres as candidates had a go at examination papers.
Not less than two police officers manned examination halls in most centres while Malawi Defence Force soldiers were placed at a few centres such as St Peters Catholic Private Secondary School.
And, in line with Covid-19 precautionary measures, candidates were asked to wear face coverings.
But this did not lead to compromises, in terms of security, as each candidate was physically searched before gaining access to examination halls.
However, while some centres religiously ensured that candidates washed their hands before undergoing physical checks, other students forwent this, citing the indefensible excuse of cold weather.
Katoto Secondary School Deputy Head teacher Mike Nyemba said the school did not face any challenge in relation to administration of examinations on the first day.
“We have seen that security has been intensified, which is giving us hope that everything will be okay.
“In terms of Covid-19 preventive measures, we are tirelessly reminding students that they should be wearing face masks at all times,” Nyemba said.
One of the candidates, Vitumbiko Munthali, was optimistic that everything would go on smoothly.
“I had been affected by the nullification of the examinations but I told myself that I still need to get myself prepared because I need to get past this. As such, I have been working hard and I am confident that I will pass,” he said.
It is expected that 154,147 candidates will sit the national test, out of which 72,641 are female and 81 506 are male.
The examinations are expected to wind up on January 29.