How Covid changed technical exams

Monday February 22 2021

UBTEB Executive secretary Onesmus Oyesigye, Board Chairman Dr. Eng. Silver Mugisha, Minister of Education and Sports Hon Janet Museveni and state minister for Primary education Rosemary Seninde during the release of UBTEB results on February 7, 2020. PHOTO/FILE.

By Desire Mbabaali

Following the disruption due to the Covid 19 outbreak, Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB) conducted its national standardised examinations for candidates in diploma awarding institutions in November to December 2020.

Apart from the continuous assessments done by institutions, the assessment body also has the responsibility of conducting and assessing the written exam as well as the onspot practical examination which can run up to 12 hours depending on the course. 

“We had 11,653 candidates from diploma awarding institutions. These did not include the National Certificate students since their examinations which are normally in November- December were deferred to this year,” Onesmus Oyesigye ,the Executive Director UBTEB shared. 

Ensuring SOPs 
As a board, Oyesigye adds, they also developed their own SOP guidelines although these were in line with what the ministries of Education and Health had issued. “On top of that, we also guided training institutions on  how to implement these SOPs. We also went there and inspected before exams to ensure that the SOPs are adhered to and the non occurrence of any covid incident at institutions shows that we were all very strict on the rules of operation,” says Oyesigye.

On top of all these, briefing all people who were going to be involved in the exam including; examination coordinators, supervisors and scouts, was helpful. These were also well equipped with materials to enable them to strictly follow the SOPs. 

Education institutions 
At Uganda Technical College Elgon, 530 candidates for all the courses sat their final exams and to ensure social distance, 16 rooms were used.  “We had a distance of two metres from every desk and had about 22 supervisors from UBTEB. This definitely impacted us in terms of the cost because just having those rooms ready took labour and we had to keep every room provided with sanitisers and hand washing facilities,” Edgar Robert Rugoobamu, the college registrar noted. 


During briefing time, all candidates were told to come with face masks and their own sanitisers, although the college also provided some sanitisers for them. 

“They were also guided on other SOPs to follow and what was expected of them during the examination period. We emphasised hand washing, social distancing, and the seating arrangement we were going to use. Since we were not going to use one big room for every student to know which room they were going to use, we put name tags on the desks in the rooms we were going to use so that students could check earlier and know where their placement was,” Rugoobamu explains.  

They also made sure that the medical centre at the college was equipped and on standby for emergencies and all these had a financial impact on the exam preparation.  

“For all of us, it was a difficult examination to supervise. We were in fear of getting infected and so, we ensured that we adhere to the SOPs. 

The most challenging exam was the on spot assessment of practical projects because these were longer and often, students had to share equipment and space. The key was to sanitise the candidates and the equipment as much as we could.  I also credit the candidates that they were willing to adhere to the SOPs and wear those masks for all those hours and in the end, we all came out fine,” Narasi Kambaho, the spokesperson for UBTEB recalls. 


Above, NCDC executive director, Ms Grace Baguma addressing journalists on the same occasion. PHOTO/FILE.

Staff confinement
Although examination security is always paramount and the isolation of staff directly involved in the production of the exam is not a new phenomena, isolating examiners this time around was a scary experience, according to Oyesigye.  

“When we type exams, we tend to isolate the staff involved in the activity at the printery, with no communication with the outside world. We keep them until the exams are dispersed to the field and this can take about 30 days. However, this time as they were going to be confined, I was very worried because we didn’t test them for Covid 19. I was concerned about infecting each other since we were not sure of their status before isolating them. However, they all remained fine and came out fine,” the Executive Director shares.

Normally, Oyesigye remains the only physical contact from the outside to the confined staff, however, because of the fear of the virus, he never physically got into their bubble in a bid to minimise any risks of the virus transmission. 

Cost of exams
Ordinarily, practical assessment is very expensive for the students, institutions and the assessment body. The difference in this Covid time was that more on spot assessors were needed than before because of the social distancing.

“Where we previously needed two invigilators for example, we now needed four because of the spacing since more rooms were occupied by students. We usually don’t spend less than Shs1 billion for facilitation of assessors but we met an extra cost this time and we anticipate that this will go higher in the next examinations,” says Oyesigye. 
When it came to marking the examinations, once examiners entered the marking centre they were isolated. However, more space was also required to ensure they maintain social distance.  
The next examinations will be held on March 12-19, 2021 for National Certificate Technical and March19 -April 1, 2021 for business students (March Intake). 
An estimated 40,000 students are expected to sit the examinations.

Social distance
“Normally, we use one marking centre; which was at Uganda Fisheries Training Centre but because of the pandemic, we had to use two marking centres so that people are well spaced so we used the Lands Training Center also.

Already, that was an extra cost because of Covid,” says the executive director of Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board, Mr Onesmus Oyesigye.  

The next business and technical and examinations will be held on March 12-19, 2021 for National Certificate Technical and March19 -April 1, 2021 for business students (March Intake). 
An estimated 40,000 students are expected to sit the examinations.