Police were deployed to schools across the country to prevent cheating as tens of thousands of students took their first exams in two years due to the pandemic.
On Monday, proctors searched students for cheat sheets as relatives waited outside schools in Phnom Penh as the first in-person exams since the start of Covid-19 got underway.
Last year, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports allowed all students to pass the Grade 12 examinations without having to sit them due to the pandemic being in its peak and schools being shuttered.
In the past, students smuggled cheat sheets into exam rooms and bribed teachers to ignore cheating. It was also common for relatives to throw cheat sheets into classrooms to help students.
A total of 114,000 students across the country sat in 204 test sites for the two-day examinations, said Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports.
He added the government was able to allow schools to reopen in September due to the high level of vaccinations. Teachers were a priority in the rollout of the vaccination programme.
He said 100 percent of students aged 5- to 18-years-old have been vaccinated. A total of 89.03 percent of Cambodia’s 16 million population have also received the vaccination, according to the Ministry of Health.
“What worries the Ministry first is Covid, but because we are able to control Covid, these examinations can go ahead as normal, almost in similar situations prior Covid,” Hang Chuon Naron told reporters on Monday, after visiting Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh.
“There is no sign that we should be worried, but we must also be careful,” he added.
Hang Chuon Naron noted masks have been distributed to students and teachers to wear during the examinations.
“The first belt of protection is the vaccinations, and the second belt of protection is always the wearing of masks,” he said.
Hang Chuon Naron confirmed the examinations form part of the government’s reopening of schools as people’s livelihoods return to normal.
Two students who tested positive with Covid-19 - one with Omicron - took their examinations at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Phnom Penh, where they are being treated, he said. The two students are athletes returning from competition in Kazakhstan.
Cambodia reported 15 Omicron cases on Sunday - all imported - as total cases rose to 120,464, with 3,009 deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia said the detection of Omicron is expected and a surge is possible.
"Cambodia has detected and reported more imported Covid 19 cases due to Omicron. This is anticipated or not unexpected. Neither “overreaction” or “inaction” is helpful,” said WHO’s representative Li Ailian in a Tweet on Monday.
“Omicron is highly transmissible and we need to be ready for a possible surge. We have effective tools!”