The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate has demanded the government postpone the thanaweya amma high school exams, scheduled to be held starting Sunday, due to the coronavirus.
The country’s medical union, along with the Cairo local branch, sent letters to the president, prime minister, parliament speaker and education minister asking them to reconsider the timing of the exams, which begin on 21 June.
“The syndicate demands the reconsideration of the timing of the exams this June which are being held during the coronavirus pandemic, especially following the increase in the number of cases,” read the letter, which has been published by local news outlets.
“It is well-known that it is impossible to protect those huge numbers of the students and their families under the best circumstances and procedures, which means there will an increase in COVID-19 among students nationwide,” the letter said.
A total of 650,000 students are due to start their thanaweya amma exams on Sunday.
The final high school exams are highly competitive, with marks determining what universities and faculties students may attend, if any.
Education Minister Tarek Shawki said earlier this month that exam rooms will be sterilised and students will have their temperature checked on arrival. They will also be required to wear masks and gloves in order to enter.
A total of 16,000 thermometers, 34 million face masks, 6.5 million pairs of gloves and 6,000 bottles of hand sanitiser have been distributed to schools, and ambulances will be parked nearby in case of illness among exam-takers.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, all end of year school exams have been replaced with research papers, except for the thanaweya amma exams.
Egypt has recorded 49,219 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began in mid-February, including 13,141 cases of full recovery and 1,850 fatalities.
The syndicate states in its letter that even if the infection rate among senior high school students is not more than 1 percent, the high numbers of students together during the examinations could lead to more infections, creating pressure the health care sector could not handle.
“The students and their future won’t be affected by the postponement of the exams, and all the indicators, including the cost benefit indicator, show that it is better not to hold the exams until the epidemic has receded," the letter said.
A social media campaign launched by some high school senior students on Twitter and Facebook over the last two weeks has called on the education ministry to postpone the exams due to the coronavirus outbreak, or to replace them with alternatives such as online assessments or research papers.