Menstrual Complications Axe Examinational Performance
By Kaitano Simwaka
In Malawi, most exams are written within a period of two weeks; the period becomes too involving and overburdening for every student. Malawi School Certificate of Examinations (MSCE) and academic exams administered by colleges and universities are papers that students sit for after strenuous preparations. It is a market belief to students that sacrificing health-giving sleep is one of the firm steps to achieving good grades or excellent performance.
When exams approach, university students begin to sacrifice, postpone or compromise their daily affairs; love relationships are treated with cold attention. At this time, students are full of fear; very few are filled with courage, and they are focused on just on thing.
Of one ugly facts, that are silently ignored or never thought of by governing bodies of exams, is the natural phenomenon of womanhood that necessitates reproduction. There is nearly no lady who hates this natural occurrence called menstrual cycle. It is a blessing bestowed on ladies; if a girl does not undergo this growth she is counted as infertile, a reality that is unwelcome and associated with curses in some traditional beliefs.
Menstrual experiences are usually chaotic among adolescent girls who are, at this time, experiencing a revolution in their hormonal behaviour system.
Adolescent girls are a large portion of females who take MSCE’s every year.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) experience an abnormal response to regular hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle,
Ladies, therefore, find it increasingly difficult to sit for any paper during their periods despite thorough preparations ahead of the exams. Periods are inevitable, and exams are also almost unavoidable. A student may not seek a separate day from MANEB to write a subject, and there is no student handbook which addresses this.
This means female students are silently forced to write exams under unfavourable conditions. Girls who abundantly prepared for exams get frustrated by the outcomes because they took the exams under psychological disturbance and physical unrest. Girls who did not fully prepare for the paper end up failing completely.
Periods occur every month and sometimes irregularly. There are only four weeks in a month, and nearly all exams last for two weeks; this adds to the logic that many female students are trapped in monthly periods within the examination weeks.
In the same study, the New England Journal of Medicine found that women afflicted with PMS often experience feelings of anxiousness, lethargy, depression, and irritability. The symptoms usually last for about a week and dissipate with the onset of menstrual bleeding. About 2.5 percent of all women of childbearing age are thought to suffer from severe PMS symptoms. Symptoms of PMS disappear with the onset of menopause.
It’s understood that a person will have to sit for a lot of exams to be successful in their lives, but ladies face this additional challenge due to the length of the exam process.
This year, when we were writing Business Management as a course in Library and Information Science at Mzuzu University, my fellow student, a lady, complained that she felt so sick that she was unable to finish the paper. When the results came out, she scored the lowest grade in this course (nearly hitting supplementary grade), but in other four courses she produced distinctions.
However, not all females are subject to this gruesome experience of womanhood. To some, the development is smoothe, with only slight discomfort. But, is any discomfort a favourable recipe for an intense examination environment?
The other issue that isn’t addressed is the young girl that cannot afford to buy sanitary pads or hygienic cloths, or who forgets to bring them with her into the exam room. What happens when she starts bleeding in the exam room—amidst her deep commitment to tackle the paper?
Finally, examination schedules can be rigorous for both males and females, and it is normal to sit for two papers (three hours each) within a day. Most female students suffer from intense abdominal pain during the onset of the period, rendering it difficult for them to sit upright for any length of time. In many poorly supported schools there are few or no chairs and desks. Students are forced to lean over or sit on the floor to complete exams. For girls experiencing even a normal menstrual cycle, this can be excruciating.
It’s time the government addressed this issue which affects more than half our population so that they have the same chance at success without the embarrassment of something beyond their control.