After a delay of about nine months, the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and the equivalent examinations , the first public tests since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, kicked off on Sunday.
A total of 22, 27,113 students from 29,035 educational institutions were supposed to appear in the exams in 3,679 exam centres across the country.
In order to ensure hygiene rules during the exams because of the ongoing pandemic, all the centres had been asked to provide hand sanitizers and temperature measuring devices at the exam hall room entrances. Parents had been asked not to crowd near the centres. This correspondent visited some of the exam centres in the city and sawa huge crowds in most of the centres. Each student was accompanied by two, three, or even four guardians who made such heavy congestion of people near the centres.
Students started entering the centers from 9:15 am. Many examinees designated to the Lalmatia Mohila College centre told this correspondent that it took them a long time to enter the centre having to go through the crowd of parents waiting at the entrance.
"There were a lot of inconveniences due to the crowding guardians. There was pushing and shoving amid the crowd and some of us had to enter with great difficulty. We were not only in fear of getting late but also feared transmission of Covid infection,” said a group of students at the end of the exam.
Extensive pressure from parents not only made it difficult to enter the centre but also caused traffic congestions on the main road in front of some schools. Law enforcement officers and school officials asked the parents to clear the area but to no avail.
Many parents argued that the students cannot be left alone. “They are not adults. We have to accompany and guide them. A crowd of guardians should not be surprising,” said the father of a candidate.
Mother of Asif Islam, a candidate of the Dhanmondi Government Boys' High School, told this correspondent that it is natural for parents to be worried and stay behind till the end of the exam. There is no designated spot for us to wait; hence we stay near the centre.”
Many guardians said the students are not carrying any communication devices. One of them said, “They are kids, not adults. We have to be here when they come out, otherwise, how will they find us?”
Entries of the schools were equipped with hand sanitizers and hand-held temperature checking devices. Although the queues entering the centers started off in discipline, the massive number of students and guardians outside the centres made it difficult to fully implement the guidelines.
Moinur Rahman, a security guard of a centre, said, “We are following the rules. Everyone seems to be wearing masks. I am spraying sanitizers and only after that allowing the candidates inside. However, it is indeed very difficult to maintain discipline with such a crowd.”
The exam ended at 11:30am. Tanvir Haque, an examinee of Nalonda High School centre said that they were happy to take the exam even though it was delayed.
“We do not have to listen to the indecent remarks of ‘auto pass candidates’ anymore. We are happy to be able to appear in the exams safe,” he said.
Other students of the same school told this correspondent that the prolonged situation of delaying the exams was quite frustrating.
“It is good to finally have things back on track. The exams went very well and hopefully, the rest of the other exams will be conducted in a similar manner,” they said.
Rokeya Begum, mother of Fahima Rahman of Dhanmondi Kamrunnesa Government High School, said, “Although the syllabus is shortened, the students only started the preparations after the announcement was made. The rest is upon God’s will.”
Headmaster of Dhanmondi Government Boys' High School Sabina Yesmin told Bangladesh Post that all health safety guidelines were followed on the premises of the centre.
“The students attended the exam halls maintaining distancing. It was made sure that everyone wears a mask and had their hands sanitized. However, the crowd did make the situation difficult. I would urge all guardians to cooperate accordingly and maintain a healthy environment,” she said.
She further expressed her joy regarding the exams being finally held and wished all the candidates the best of luck.
This year, the examinees will only have to sit for exams in three optional subjects with a shortened syllabus and carrying fewer marks. Exams for science, humanities and business groups will be held on separate days. They will not have to sit for tests in compulsory subjects like Bangla, English and Mathematics.
The results of the three optional subjects and the grade point average of the students' previous public exams, including Junior School Certificate (JSC) tests, will be taken into consideration in the final results.
Education Minister Dipu Moni at a press conference on October 27 said the results will be published within 30 days after the exams end on November 23.
Although the SSC exam is scheduled to be held in the country in February every year, this time the exam is being conducted with a nine -month delay due to the educational institutions remaining closed because of the growing effects of Covid-19 earlier this year.