Would you like to make English your default language, on this site? |
Mahmoud Nada sat in front of al-Hussainiya school in Cairo's al-Abbasiya district last week nervously reading his mathematics notebook, in a race with time to review as much material as he could.
Nada, a third-year high school student, was about to take his final exams.
Egypt's high school final exams are one of the most important events on a family's calendar. The exams began June 9th and continue until July 4th.
Exams this year posed a great challenge for Nada, who had difficulty studying and attending classes recently because of numerous demonstrations in al-Abbasiya during the past six months.
"High school exams this year have a different flavour," Nada said. "I am eager to excel and get a high score in order to enrol in an engineering college because the country has a great need for [engineers] at this critical time."
Students are taking their exams in a tense political climate as the presidential elections will be held Saturday (June 16th) and completed Sunday. A constitutional court ruling issued Thursday dissolved the recently elected People's Assembly, and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is expected to transfer power after the presidential elections.
Trials of former Mubarak era officials are continuing, and demonstrations have become a regular occurrence during the past six months.
Abdel Rahman Khalil, another third year student, agreed that studying recently has been difficult, saying that he and his schoolmates initially felt frustrated because of the tense political situation.
"The frustration did not last long as many of us know that reform is coming to the country and that the hardworking individuals will have a place [in the new Egypt] and a good job," he said.
Yara Saeed, a second year high school student, said, "My school is in the Zamalek district in downtown Cairo, and often when demonstrations took place I could not go to school. That caused a lot of stress in the beginning, but things improved after that."
Saeed said everyone should help rebuild Egypt, noting that she and her schoolmates were very active during the height of political demonstrations in February 2011.
Officials implemented tight security measures at the testing sites to protect the 419,829 students taking exams this year. The Ministries of Education, Interior and Health, and the armed forces, are on high alert with ambulances stationed near the testing sites, according to Al-Masry al-Youm. The Ministry of Education set up a hotline to handle concerns from students and parents.
High school examinations were the subject of debate in recent months as parliament approved a new system that requires students to take only one final exam to earn a diploma. The exam is taken at the end of the third year instead of at the conclusion of both the second and third years.
Secondary education in Egypt consists of three academic years, the first of which covers all required science and literary courses. During the second and third years, students can choose their own area of concentration.
Kamal Mugheeth, an education expert, told Al-Shorfa that despite parliament's simplified exam system, the last two academic years have been the hardest in decades in Egypt.
"I think it increased the burden on families and students, but I think the government and concerned agencies will ensure the exams take place without hitches so as not to significantly affect the students," he said.
Other parents said that events of the past year caused their children to become more engaged politically.
"There's no denying that the security situation in the country has improved," said Suad Abdul-Hamid, a mother of a high school student. "Sometimes I feel that my daughter follows the news too intently, which stresses her and keeps her from studying."
Abdul-Hamid said her daughter was not interested in politics prior to the revolution. She used to watch Arabic and foreign television series but now follows the People's Assembly sessions and political talk shows.
Nader Girgis, whose daughter is in her third year of high school, said concerns about the impact of political events on students are exaggerated.
"I believe that high school students are the sons and daughters of this country and have to endure what happens and contribute to improving it," he said.
"The current generation of young people in Egypt, whether they are in [secondary] school or attending university, are educated and aware, as evidenced by the fact that they outperformed the older generations and started a revolution to build a democratic system of government," Girgis said.