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Social distancing during exams condemns hundreds to harsh weather

MONKAGEDI GAOTHOBOGWE
Rari
Teaching Sector trade union, BOSETU, says it has observed that the new COVID-19 protocol of 1.5 metre social distancing sitting arrangement, imposed by the examiner, BEC, for this year’s examinations in secondary schools, has resulted in the candidates (Form 3s and form 5s), having to occupy more classrooms.

This consequently condemns the rest of the students and teachers to operate outside in harsh hot or rainy conditions.

BOSETU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari, speaking to Mmegi observed that the COVID-19 challenges had worsened classroom shortages with many schools forced to revert to the dark age of teaching under the trees, describing the situation as unsuitable for teachers and students alike.

BOSETU says the situation could have been handled better, as the Education sector trade union, while oblivious of the COVID-19 challenges, had proposed to the powers that be to re-open schools only for completing classes this year, as a compromise.

BOSETU says their suggestion to have this year’s academic calendar voided or extended by a few months in light of the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the learning environment were not hid either.

The BOSETU Secretary General says as a union responsible for both the welfare of students and teachers, and seeking value, they had not ignored the adverse effects of intermittent lockdowns that characterised Botswana’s economy, especially on the learning environment, hence their earlier suggestion to have this calendar year voided or at least extended by a few months.

“The students who are sitting for the final year this year are doing so under difficult and trying circumstances, you will recall that there had been some intermittent lockdowns, the first being for the whole country lasting a month, the second and third lockdowns being for Greater Gaborone, resulting in students losing out on learning, syllabus not run efficiently, meaning students are faced with the situation whereby they sit for exams without having adequately covered the syllabus,” observed the Secretary General.

BOSETU says it has observed that when the schools reopened, and had to practise social distancing in classrooms, the situation resulted in other classes being held in the afternoons, meaning that the afternoon times that teachers and students traditionally used for remedial works and enrichment activities as well as assisting practical subjects students to finish their course works, were no longer there.

“As a results many schools end up submitting course works and artifacts that are sub-standard because they were done in a hurry and not ably assisted;

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added to the fact that syllabus was not adequately covered; so all in all students are taking the exams under very trying circumstances,” noted the Secretary General.

Writing exams in the midst of COVID-19 is a nightmare for any student

According to BOSETU, writing exams in the midst of infections is a nightmare for any student. “Some students are testing positive in the middle of exams, some are taken for contact tracing, some are quarantined, leaving students panicky and psychologically affected”. “We had proposed that during the exams, let’s have pupils under quarantine put in one place, instead of having them to write exams from their various isolation homes. We suggested that they can be invigilated in one place, in particular those who are positive, their invigilators be kitted with PPEs to protect them from exposure, and that teachers be treated as frontline workers, just like nurses who are working with COVID-19 patients at Sir Ketumile Hospital,” explained Rari.

Shortage of invigilators rocks Gaborone

Owing to the fact that Gaborone has become a leading COVID-19 hotspot, BOSETU says their intelligence have revealed that many teachers have withdrawn from availing themselves for invigilation in this year’s examinations in the city.

According to BOSETU the teachers took issues of personal safety into consideration and decided to opt out.

“We hear there is shortage of invigilators in Gaborone. Invigilation is not compulsory, as per a ruling by courts of law that invigilation and marking cannot be forced on teachers since it is the job of BEC, so no one should be forced to do those activities, they are done out of volition and when they are done they should be paid,” Rari said.

According to BOSETU’s forecast this year’s academic results could be the worst as a result of the myriad of challenges brought about by COVID-19

“While we are not pessimists or prophets of doom, everything point to the direction of very low pass marks, this is what parents should expect and should be psychologically prepared for. We are teachers, we wish the students, the candidates, very well, and wish them all the best under these very trying circumstances,” concluded Rari.



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