By Doha News Staff
12th grade students started their final exams on the 1st of June at 9 AM and will continue until the 13th of June. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education has posted multiple awareness messages on Twitter for high school students on the different precautions that are going to be taken. Measures include only allowing 8 students to one classroom and 40 students to a gym hall. Students’ temperatures will also be checked when entering school.
A month before exams commenced, a hashtag was trending on Twitter as students were asking the ministry to cancel their final exams due to COVID-19 concerns. Students were asking for their final first-semester grade to be considered instead.
However, their requests were not met. 12th grade students were asked to come to school from 9:00–10:30 AM for their exams and instructed that they must wear face masks and gloves at all times.
However, when Doha News asked pupils about their first day of exams, a student from Omar Bin Al-Khattab Secondary School for Boys told us, “I was very nervous, students were gathering and the administration did not care. No one really followed the rules of keeping distance that were set prior to exams. We did have to wear gloves and masks all the time, and I got my temperature checked.”
Another student from the same school explained that no one was managing the pupils outside as they gathered after the exam, despite social distancing being enforced inside the school building. He also mentioned how uncomfortable it was to write while wearing gloves that were too small (gloves were provided by the school).
The teenagers made their concerns known to their teachers and consequently students reported improvements on the second day of exams, telling Doha News that the school then provided bigger gloves and the classrooms were cleaned thoroughly.
But in other campuses, there’s been strong criticism levelled at the authorities. A student from Alkhour Secondary School for Girls told us, “They were completely careless. It was honestly shocking. It showed me how careless and incompetent people can be. I felt unsafe and I’m afraid of going to school for the next two weeks.”
When inside the school, girls are asked to place their abayas and headscarves in plastic bags. There was no adequate space provided to the girls which resulted in large groups of them gathering together.
One girl told Doha News that the experience made her extremely uncomfortable. She later called the Ministry of Education’s hotline to express her concerns and was told to file a complaint, which she did and was provided with a ticket number but has not been contacted yet.
On her second day, the student reported that housemaids, drivers, and parents were standing outside the school with no one observing social distancing rules. The supervisor standing outside tried to control the crowd, but no one listened.
A student from another school, Albayan Secondary School for Girls described the scene there, “It was slightly chaotic because no one was social distancing. Supervisors, organisers, workers, students, everyone. It was also slightly stressful because it was hot and hard to breathe with a mask and gloves on.”
The student also added how after leaving the school there were gatherings of maids, students, and drivers. No one was observing social distancing protocols.
Many students and parents told Doha News how they believed it would have been better had the ministry arranged for online exams instead, thus allowing pupils to be assessed but ensuring their safety at home. It’s a feeling that many hold strongly especially as some people have not been abiding by government guidelines and continue to socialise meaning that parents have no guarantee that their children’s classmates are not carrying the virus.
Some schools like Aspire Academy went to great distances to demonstrate the precautions they are taking to ensure their students’ wellbeing. The academy shared videos and photos showing students as they entered the gym hall, having their temperature taken, keeping a distance from one another, and even wearing face shields while sitting the exam.
A small number of students across the country who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were not able to take their exams. They will complete their exams in August.
It seems the Ministry of Education was adamant that exams would not be postponed like they have in some other countries, but there are questions as to why the exams weren’t made online; similar to how much of the second semester and all of the third have been conducted.