City decides to conduct school exams, but community schools unpreparedA school principal says many of his students in remote villages are unreachable.
Seventeen-year-old Ramesh Sharma, a grade 10 student at Durbar High School, Kathmandu, is in home isolation at Tajakot Rural Municipality in Jumla.
Sharma, along with his three classmates, a few juniors and other villagers had left Kathmandu last week by chartering a bus. “None of us are aware about anything back in Kathmandu, but we feel safer here,” said Sharma on the phone. Although he has not done a Covid-19 test, he decided to quarantine himself just as a precaution. He and his friends from the same village lived at the hostel of the Durbar High School.
Sharma says they left for the village after the government extended the prohibitory orders for another 15 days, till May 27 and their Secondary Education Examinations became uncertain.
The Central Examination Board had earlier announced that the grade 10 final examinations would start from May 27 but after the extension of the prohibitory orders the exams have been postponed indefinitely. Most schools have not yet conducted the terminal exams for other grades.
“None of us would like to think about the exams in this difficult situation. We do not have the internet. Phone conversation is very rare because my phone hardly picks the signal,” said Sharma.
But two days after Sharma and his friends left Kathmandu, the Education Department of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, on May 16 published a notice to all the private and community schools in the city to complete the final exams by June 3.
A total of 640 private and 91 community schools fall under the purview of the education department of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
The department’s notice said the schools conduct exams in whatever way possible, either in person or virtually, through telephone or by emailing questions to the students. But many government schools say conducting the exams is not possible as most of their students have already left the Valley and many of them are unreachable in lack of access to either telephone or the internet, while many parents say the children are not psychologically ready to sit the exams amid rising infections and deaths due to the pandemic.
On Thursday the country reported 190 Covid-19 related deaths, with 8,227 new infections in the past 24 hours.
“More than sixty percent of our students have left for their villages and most of the students from remote districts including Mugu, Kalikot and Jumla among others are not reachable so it is not possible to conduct exams virtually,” said Shiva Raj Adhikari, the principal of the Sanskrit School, a community schools that shares the building of the Durbar High School.
The Sanskrit School runs classes from grade six to 10 and has a total of 344 students.
“Since the pandemic is at its peak now, I think most of the students are not mentally ready for any kind of exams,” said Adhikari.
Similarly the teachers of the Durbar High School, which is also known as Bhanu School, share similar views as Adhikari.
Also, some guardians have expressed their disappointment with the City’s decision to conduct the exams in the middle of the pandemic.
“In my house except for my daughter and me, everyone including the grandparents and her father was infected with Covid-19. We all are living in fear and now the prospect of examinations will add more stress to the children,” said Rojina Tuladhar, 33, a mother of a seventh grader at a private school.
“My daughter’s school has sent all the exam materials and she can sit the exams virtually from home, but given the current pandemic situation, exams add to the anxiety of the students,” said Tuladhar who lives in Sitapaila.
Meanwhile, Natikaji Maharjan, the principal of Gyanodaya School at Kalanki says his school has decided to conduct exams as per the demands of the students and the guardians. “Our exams were scheduled to start from April 25, but we had to postpone them after the government enforced the prohibitory orders. Then we rescheduled the exams for May 9, but restrictions have continued and exams have also continued,” said Maharjan.
“That is why many of our students didn’t leave the Valley. And for those who have already left the Valley, we will conduct exams once they are back,” said Maharjan, the principal of the school which has over 3,000 students.
Maharjan said his school had conducted exams online also during last year’s lockdown.
However, education experts say the City’s decision to conduct exams during the pandemic is hasty and impractical. Not only Kathmandu, but the Pokhara Metropolitan City and Ilam Municipality have also made similar announcements to conduct the exams.
“The local units should be training their entire focus on saving people’s lives because health comes first and everything else later,” said Binay Kusiyait, a professor at the Tribhuvan University.
“There is a big investment in education from the private sector, it seems the government bodies came under the influence of the private schools,” said Kusiyait. He said exams can be conducted when the situation becomes normal.
When the Post contacted Ram Prasad Subedi, the chief of Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Education Department, and asked about its decision to conduct the school exams, he said the decision was taken after consulting the schools. “We have to start the new academic session after a month, so exams have to be conducted,” said Subedi. “Many schools have been running classes online and we have given various options to the schools to conduct the exams without putting extra pressure on students,” said Subedi.
Again on Wednesday, the department published a new notice instructing schools on how to assess the performance of students, especially the eighth graders who were to appear in the district-level exams. As per the notice, the students should be be given 40 percent marks based on their performance in the first and second terminal exams, another 40 percent based on their overall performance and activities in the class, and the remaining 20 percent based on the performance of the students in telephone or email-based exam, and, the marks should be sent to the department via www.kmcdoe.org.
But educational experts like Kusiyait are opposed to any form of examination during these difficult times. “This is not a sensible thing, the city should reconsider its decision,” he said.