On 30 April, 570,850 grade 11 students started their final-year exams by logging onto mobile phones, laptops and desktops, forced to do so after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Students who took the exams, which will last until 17 May, were divided into two groups. One group included students from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Assiut, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Qena, Fayoum, Damietta, Ismailia, Aswan, Port Said, North Sinai, New Valley and South Sinai governorates. They took their exam from 9 to 12 in the morning.
Students in the remaining governorates of Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Qalioubiya, Gharbiya, Menoufiya, Beheira, Minya, Sohag, Beni Sweif, Luxor, Suez, Red Sea and Marsa Matrouh took their exams from 12 to 3pm.
The Ministry of Education and Technical Education allocated the link https://thaneduone.emis.gov.eg/attend-complain/ to sign in and out before and after exams.
According to Reda Hegazi, deputy to the Ministry of Education, the link also receives daily complaints from students who face technical problems while taking their exams. “Grade 11 students are taking their exams three days a week, and all the problems they had have been solved,” Hegazi, who strongly denied rumors that exam answers had been leaked, said.
Hegazi said the ministry had also allocated several hotlines for students to report any technical problem immediately. “Technicians are available at all times during the exams to receive complaints and help solve them immediately. Until now none of the students faced any unsolvable problem,” confirmed Hegazi.
Students, according to Hegazi, are being tested in the curriculum they studied until 15 March, and that the exams will be corrected electronically, and the results published on school websites and sent to students.
Mervat Fathi, a teacher and mother of a grade 11 student, said her daughter did not face any difficulty in the exams. Fathi did say that thousands of students had formed a group on the Telegram application to help each other answer exam questions. “None of the exams were leaked but students cheated,” Fathi said.
Israa Ahmed, a grade 11 student, said she was logged out of the exam platform while taking the Arabic exam whose duration was three hours. “I immediately dialed one of the hotline numbers sent to us and the technician helped me to re-log onto the platform but by then I only had one hour left. If it were not for the Telegram group, I would not have managed to finish the exam,” Ahmed said.
Another mother who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, said the number of students on Telegram was over 220,000. She said the ministry was aware of the group since many of the students received automated message addressed to them from Minister of Education Tarek Shawki stating, she added, that although he loves them, he is upset they are cheating.
Hegazi told the Weekly that the ministry was aware of the group. “The ministry is examining the situation, will take it into consideration and will take all necessary measures against it.
“Thank God I am not a member of the Telegram group,” Ali, a grade 11 student, said. “Three of my friends who are members received an automated message from the minister saying he was disappointed because they are cheating. I believe they will be punished but I do not know how,” Ali said.
Badreddin Amin, also a grade 11 student and a member of Telegram, believes they will not be penalized because the ministry will not be able to fail over 200,000 students. “The ministry cannot fail all these students,” Amin said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly