The Coronavirus Test

All photos: BIKRAM RAI

Even though they have been doing online classes only after schools closed in March, Nepali students sat for physical Grade 12 exams outdoors on Tuesday.

The exams had been postponed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic but were held now after a recent Cabinet decision, with more than 432,500 students appearing.

All wore masks, some even had visors as they sat physically separated in playgrounds and basketball courts in schools across the country that had sanitisers and hand-washing facilities. The exams are taking place despite a sustained spread of the coronavirus across the country, with a majority of new cases and fatalities in Kathmandu Valley.

Due to limits in the number of students in each school, the National Examination Board held the tests in more than 4,000 schools -- double the number from last year.The length of each exam has also been shortened so as to minimise the chances of virus exposure during the in-person tests.

The exam marking scheme looks different this year, with students being assigned only 40% marks based on the daily one-and-a-half hour exams. Meanwhile, 40% and 20% marks will be awarded by schools and colleges through internal evaluations of students’ Grade 11 and 12 performances respectively.

NEB has assured that students infected with Covid-19 who cannot participate in the exams will be allowed to sit for their exams at a later date. However, separate arrangements have been made for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic students who wish to take the exams.

All examination personnel present in examination centres as well as in schools and colleges where the exams are taking place will be required to wear masks, and will only be admitted to the examination centre after temperature checks.

As in most of the world, the pandemic has shut schools and colleges across the country for almost a year. However, some schools in remote rural Nepal with few or no Covid-19 cases have begun to re-open over the last two months.

The school closures have wiped out recent gains in education in Nepal, and the health crisis will undo decades of efforts to increase school enrolment across the country. Moreover, the pandemic has brought to light inequity in schooling, exacerbated by the need for remote instruction during the crisis.While better-endowed schools are conducting online classes, the digital divide has meant that a majority of schools and students in the country have been left without resources to learn from home.

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