If security risks and power outages weren’t enough, the secondary school students in Karachi were greeted by a torrential downpour on the first day of their examinations on Monday.
Around 84,000 candidates sat for the papers of studies and English language, the first in the series of secondary school certificate (SSC) papers expected – if everything stays fine – to end on April 25.
An additional 50,000 students are taking the examinations this year, the total number of candidates registered with the Board of Secondary Education Karachi (BSEK) at 317,407.Around 50 of the 223 exam centres set up across Karachi have been declared “sensitive” over security fears but educationists claim their number to be much higher.
A recent Supreme Court order had called on the police and Rangers to guard all examination centres in Karachi due to the volatile security situation. Only a week earlier, the principal of a girls’ school in Ittehad Town had fallen victim to a bomb and gun attack. One of the students injured in the attack also succumbed to her wounds later.
No security arrangements were, however, witnessed at many centres.“The absence of law enforcers was felt the most at centres for female candidates. At one of the sensitive centres, the Metropolitan Academy in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, there wasn’t any Rangers mobile,” said Sharfuz Zaman of the Private School Management Association.
This school had witnessed the murder of a school teacher last year and agreed to become an exam centre only if the secondary board deployed Rangers at the premises.Reports of absence of security were also received from Shah Faisal Town, Malir, Korangi, Orangi Town and Saudabad.
While arrangements such as distribution of papers, drinking water and seating arrangements were said to be appropriate, power failures were reported from several centres following the heavy rain.
Candidates were given 20 extra minutes to complete their papers because of the disturbance caused by the unexpected showers. At a government school for boys in Sector 11-F, New Karachi, arrangements were made for 400 students but actually 900 students took the paper. “Candidates were seated in the corridors, on the ground,” a man, who lives in the neighbourhood, said.
The BSEK has also formed 54 “vigilance teams”, which will remain mobile throughout the examination to check on cheating students. On surprise visits to various schools, the team members caught five candidates using unfair means to solve papers, four from the Government SM Public School and one from a school in Azizabad.
“Everything went on smoothly today,” said BSEK Examinations Controller Noman Ahsan. “We are satisfied by our performance.”