Reprieve for Covid-19+ students

Debra Matabvu

Sunday Mail Reporter

PUBLIC examination candidates who test positive for Covid-19 will be allowed to sit for their exams under special health protocols, that include sitting in isolated exam rooms with strict monitoring by care givers. 

The Zimbabwe School Examination Council (zimsec) Ordinary and Advanced Level exams will commence this Tuesday, while Grade Seven candidates begin theirs two days later.

At least 57 cases of the virus were recorded at Chinhoyi High School last week. This comes as learners who had tested positive for the virus at John Tallach and Matobo High Schools are being released from quarantine ahead of the examinations, after completing the mandatory 10-day isolation.

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Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said more than 80 percent of teachers were reporting for duty, thereby averting the potential shortage of invigilators.

The Sunday Mail has gathered that Covid-19 positive students will sit in segregated classrooms where they will be monitored by invigilators in full Personal Protective Equipment gear.

The classrooms will be regularly sanitised while the schools will be expected to observe Government’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

Mr Ndoro said experience from the mid-year and the Cambridge examinations will inform how the examinations will be held.

Last week, Government released $150 million towards drilling boreholes at public schools to improve sanitation standards.

“Preparations for examinations are on course and Government is satisfied with what has been done so far,” said Mr Ndoro.

“We are also happy that 80 percent of teachers are now back at school, so we are confident that everything will go smoothly. A number of students who had initially tested positive are being cleared by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and will sit for the examinations.

“It is important for parents not to panic because most of these students are asymptomatic, which means they can do everything, including studying and even writing examinations.

“For those students who are in quarantine, provisions will be made to ensure they write safely. We are doing that with Chinhoyi High and John Tallach.

“Those in quarantine will be allowed to sit but will be separated from those who are negative. They will have their writing materials brought to them at quarantine facilities at their schools.”

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He said there will be strict enforcement of SOPs in schools to guarantee the safety of learners, teachers and staff.

“We took a leaf from the June examinations as well as from the private schools, so we will strictly adhere to SOPs that were given to schools.

“There will be adequate social distancing, screening, sanitising and health officers deployed to schools will ensure that learners and teachers are safe.”

In boarding schools, the Government is reviewing schools’ carrying capacities, inspecting the boarding facilities and training hostel matrons, boarding masters and kitchen staff. 

Acting Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Munekayi Padingani said students who had returned positive results at John Tallach were being released from quarantine.

“The students were asymptomatic, therefore, according to procedures, they are discharged from quarantine after 10 days,” said Dr Padingani.

“In this case, we were supposed to discharge them on Thursday, however, there were some administrative issues that needed to be resolved first.

“Out of the 184 who had tested positive, those who are not sitting for examinations will be cleared to return home so that they do not remain in the red zone. Those who are sitting for the exams will be cleared to sit for the examinations before being tested when they return home.”

Matabeleland South provincial medical director Dr Rudo Chikodzere said students from Matobo High had been cleared to sit for the examinations.

“We have been clearing the cases in batches after they have completed the 10-day quarantine process,” said Dr Chikodzere.

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Zimsec board chairperson Professor Eddie Mwenje said some of the PPEs received from the National Pharmaceutical Company (Natpharm) in September helped prepare for the examinations.

“We had the June examinations, which were a huge success, and I think the November examinations will be better because of the boost we received from Natpharm when schools reopened,” said Prof Mwenje. 

“Whenever there are cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health intervenes and they have been assisting us with managing cases of students who test positive. 

“However, everything is under control and we are happy with the progress made so far.” 

Over 1,2 million students registered for the end-of-year public examinations.

SUNDAYMAIL