The Head of Communications at the Botswana Examinations Council, Charles Keikotlhae, has said this year’s examinations are progressing well.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Keikotlhae said BEC is also confident that results will come out within the planned time frame.
This is in contrast to last year when examinations as well as results were marred by controversy and delays following a protracted standoff between Government and teachers over the amount of money paid for invigilation.
There were also complaints that the overall integrity of last year’s national examinations process was suspect, with allegations of leaked papers and inexperienced invigilators flying thick and thin.
Keikotlhae is of the view that examinations are a huge national event involving many people and preparing for such events is never without incidents. He said it is generally accepted that managing such a big national process will always have some glitches. What is, however, important is for the authorities to strive to maintain the integrity of the process beyond reproach.
He said last year’s problems were blown out of proportions because there were underlying disputes between key players.
“Because there is no dispute this year, we are not getting issues that are blown out of proportion,” said Keikotlhae.
He said it is now agreed that BEC will not act like both a player and a referee in the conduct of examinations.
Instead, BEC mandate has been streamlined to that of a regulator, with the Ministry of Education managing the invigilation budget.
“The Ministry will manage the invigilation budget because they are the ones responsible for managing schools. What we will be doing as BEC is to assess the suitability of the exam centres to ensure and guarantee good standards,” he said.
Keikotlhae is of the view that on a general scale, teacher unions are also impressed with progress and cooperation that has so far characterized preparation for this year’s examinations.
“We have been very proactive in our consultative processes with the teacher trade unions, and that has helped a lot.”
On another note, Keikotlhae said progress has been made to fully automate the examination processes in Botswana so that security of the papers could be enhanced.
He said one reason why there continued to be too many problems surrounding security of papers had to do with the fact that because things are done manually, papers were physically transported over large distances.
“Of course there will always be issues of internet connectivity, especially in the rural areas. But the fact of the matter is that automation will reduce overall risk.”
Where there is no internet connectivity BEC will continue using the old system.
The localization of examinations is also under way, and once fully completed BEC will save close to P25 million which is annually paid to Cambridge for the conduct of exams.
Another key component that BEC is working on is developing a system through which the performance of a candidate will be tracked from Primary School Leaving Examination up to Cambridge O’Level, said Keikotlhae.
He said the component will use a birth certificate number.
“Because we are just starting, we have given ourselves up to 2014 by which time it will become compulsory. This is not a development unique to Botswana. In fact, other countries are well ahead of us.”