The Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) says the number of candidates sitting the 2021 national examinations has declined both in primary and secondary schools.
Maneb acting executive secretary, Professor Dorothy Nampota said this at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Tuesday, that was held to sensitise parents, candidates and the public on the 2021 examinations.
The board unveiled innovations it has come up with for better administration of the exams and pleaded for support from the public on examinations security.
In 2020, 302 985 sat the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations while 281 329 are expected to sit the examinations this year, indicating a decline of about 7.1 percent.
The Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations on the other hand, has 128 969 candidates in 2021, down from 154 147 in 2020 — a decrease of about 16 percent.
But Nampota indicated that this is not the first time for such to happen. However, she said they are investigating the cause for this year’s drop.
Commenting on the same, the minister of education, Agnes Nyalonje said her ministry will only make a solid statement on the decline after concluding their investigations.
“As a ministry we like to base our conclusions on evidence, and it is only until we conduct the investigations and find out the reasons when we can communicate. But it is fair to say that in a year when the country and the world has been hit by Covid-19, it could be the cause. But without research we cannot conclusive say so. We will look into it and establish the cause behind the drop,” she said.
In her statement, Nampota also cited how the examinations administration body has prepared to handle particular cases during the administration of the exams.
Among others, she mentioned that candidates with special needs will be attended to accordingly and will get extra time in the examinations.
“We have engaged special invigilators and rooms have been arranged for the candidates that will use braille and oral examinations. For the oral candidates, the invigilators will read out the questions to the candidates and support them with the writing if they cannot write,” she said.
She added that there is also a provision of large print examination papers for candidates with low vision.
Nampota also said candidates with special needs will be required to sit practical examinations this year.
On security, the minister indicated that Maneb has taken precautions to ensure that the upcoming set of national examinations are valid, reliable and professionally managed.
She said strict security measures were put in place during the process of examinations development and printing.
Additionally, she stated that for the first time in five years, 135 619 learners are expected to sit Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) examinations from September 28. The JCE exams were abolished in 2016 under the previous government.
“We have brought back JCE in response to the concerns that citizens raised but also because, in education we believe that this is the right thing to do. And, by doing so, one of the Tonse Campaign promises of bringing back JCE has been fulfilled.
“There is no education system that does not have a checkpoint within an educational cycle. This is news to be celebrated by both parents and students. A big win to the education system in Malawi,” she said.
National examinations are high stake examinations which play a pivotal role in the country’s education system.
In 2020, the MSCE examinations were leaked forcing Maneb to readminister the examinations. With the case still in the courts, Nyalonje said her ministry is looking forward to its conclusion with justice served.