This week we began the chaos of exams.  While I have heard so much about the examination process, I didn’t know what to expect.  When I think of high school exams, I remember receiving a time table ahead of time and knowing exactly when and where the exams would be.  There were certain rules to follow throughout the school during exam times both inside and outside the classroom.  I remember people were stressed (at least I was!) and when you looked around the school, you could see students studying and preparing.

Well, exams in Namibia are a completely different experience.  It is absolute mayhem!

We were told at the last minute that we had to write our own exams, which is normally done at the regional level.  And then, the exam papers were due on the first day of exams, which doesn’t leave much time for photocopying and stapling!  I got asked at the last minute to type up the Rukwangali exams (which was a joke, NO idea what I was typing!), as they were  handwritten on lined paper, about 2 hours before the kids were supposed to write the thing!

An exam timetable was given to us last Friday… with NO TIMES!  So basically, we get to school at 7am and wait around until someone (could be anyone really- principal, subject head, janitor) tells us it is time to pass out papers.  And until then, the kids, who are supposed to be studying, are running around, yelling out windows, playing soccer in the classroom with a stuffed sock… while the teachers are no where to be found.   The calm, quiet, study-condusive environment I remember around Notre Dame during exams, does not exist here.

And then the exam begins.   Teachers and kids are wandering all over, students are passing calculators and rulers.  They whisper across the room for their friend to throw them their eraser or pen.  Of course, some kids don’t have desks or chairs so they are sitting on the floor or writing with a chair on their lap. I have no idea how they concentrate.  Even worse, is that the teachers who are supposed to be invigilating the exams are chatting outside the classroom.  I think I am the only one that actually stays in the classroom while the kids are writing!

The problem is that the exams are very heavily weighted.  Nationally, grades 5 to 12 write exams three times a year: April, August and December.  For grades 5-10, the exams count for 65% of their final mark.  For grades 11 and 12, the exams count for 100%.  When so much of both student and teacher success relies on this  time of the year, I am surprised (well, not really) that there are not more rigid rules and guidelines.  Things that make you go umm….

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