Final exams are coming up for Higher Education students and with Level 1, students will be heading to campuses to write. With Covid still around us, how will these exams be carried out? Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia from Higher Health gave us a look inside the Department’s plans.
Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of Higher Health, said, “Covid remains around us. It keeps growing and this pandemic is about to stay until we develop something to overcome this pandemic.”
We are now coming to a phase where in lockdown level one, we have allowed 100% of our students to come back. The whole institution is working the way it should be working as contact learning. Now it’s the period where from October until December, we are going to be starting exams.
– Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia
The Department alone with Higher Health want to ensure that exams are carried out in the most preventative way where they can limit the spread of infection amongst students and staff present in exam venues.
They have therefore looked into engineering controls such as building structures and assessing which building rooms would be used. They are also considering the facts such as knowing the disease is airborne and has airdrops which spreads it. Exam venues will then need to be in rooms with high ventilation.
Engineering structures need to be relooked at, said Ahluwalia.
Higher Education institutions will also have to have multiple entry and exit points into the room to ensure that there is no congestion as students come into and go out of exam venues.
The Higher Health CEO said it’s the “whole world that has to work to prepare the exam room”.
They have also been preparing the examiners as well as the invigilators.
Another action they’ve done is to look at how surfaces should be sanitised as well as the exam papers itself.
For exam papers, they’ve has to assess isolation periods as well and how long the virus stays stays on skin, paper and cardboard. Therefore, exam papers will be put under isolation for a specific amount of hours before being marked so that any sign of Covid can die.
Students and staff will also have to be wearing masks and social distancing will be observed between students.
Every parameter has to be looked into, said the Higher Health CEO.
They have to look at all Universities and not only the ones who are advantaged and can carry these protocols out easily. They also have to look at community training colleges in disadvantaged and rural areas.
We’ve got about 1800 Community Training Colleges, we’ve got about 300 TVET Colleges and probably most of our Universities are now semi-urban and rural. So, we have to look into every parameter in a more holistic way.
– Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia
Higher Health has recruited 13 000 frontline workers and staff who went under training to carry out these protocols as well as students volunteers who will assist with screenings.
Thousands of students will be coming into campuses at a time and just their entrance and any congestion through that, can spread the virus. The Department and Higher Health therefore had to consider instances like those as well.
Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, also released the guidelines for the November/December sit down exams for the Higher Education sector last week and said, “HIGHER HEALTH has been developing programmes, systems and controls related to the pandemic through the establishment of guidelines, protocols, research and capacity building across our sector. These are grounded in the growing body of science and latest epidemiological data”.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé