14 November 2012

Uganda: F.6 Student Uses Magnifying Glass to Write Her Exams

Luzira, Kampala — While scientists study the detail of some objects and creatures under a magnifying glass, 18-year-old Jennifer Apio is employing the same efficiency to write her national exams - not for a Biology practical, but for every reading that she needs.

Without the use of a glass magnifier, Apio probably would never have managed to sit her exams at Luzira Secondary School.

Together with other candidates in the examination room, Apio is racing against the exam time but she will not beat the time deadline, much as she tries to.

She is visually impaired.

The teenage A'level finalist steadily rests a two-inch-thick magnifying lens onto her exam paper several times as she writes her three-hour Economics paper.

She routinely raises the glass again on top of the answer sheet, cautiously making sure she writes along the lines and within the margins of the answer sheet.

It is undoubtedly a time-consuming effort, but Apio knows better than to ever give up.

Luckily, the invigilators are kind enough to add her 45 minutes beyond the usual time given for the paper. But with all the strain she has to endure, one would agree she deserves more than just three-quarters of an hour of additional time.

"I first have to concentrate so that I can use the magnifying glass clearly to answer questions on the lines of the UNEB booklet, hence straining my eyes "Apio explains.

She studied Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Fine Art (PEM/FA) as her A'level (HSC) combination.

By UNEB provisions, a special needs student is given an extra 45 minutes for completing his or her exam.

But even with this added time, Apio's low vision does not allow her to attempt all the questions provided, yet her confidence that she will still pass her Economics paper "highly" forges a grin on her face. Such is the optimism she always needs to keep going.

"The questions that were set in that paper were fair because what our teachers taught us all appeared on paper. It is only my poor vision that will let me down if I don't pass as to my expectation."

Her sight failure started only two weeks before the start of the final national exams. And when she told her parents about it, they reported the matter to the school management.

The school head, Olive Kyohere says Apio was diagnosed with low vision at Mengo Hospital a week before the examination, and was given spectacles.

Much as the spectacles came in handy, she still had a problem seeing clearly. And so she decided to be a little more creative with the magnifying glass. A harsh awakening to reality, but it worked.

"When the invigilator wrote random UNEB numbers on the blackboard, Apio couldn't see clearly until one of the invigilators took the numbers to her desk," the headmistress says.

Being an important stage in her academic life, Apio will have to employ her magnifying glass idea to write the rest of her papers.

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