Al-Ahram, a state-owned newspaper, reported that Egypt’s police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of high school students who protested in downtown Cairo against the education ministry’s decision to cancel and postpone the end-of-year standardized Thanaweya Amma exams after earlier versions were leaked.
The protest in Cairo’s downtown lasted more than five hours. As students began heading to Tahrir Square, armored police vehicles dispersed the crowds of students with tear gas and chased them into the narrower side roads of Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
Police also shot rubber bullets at the protesters and arrested a handful of the students, an eyewitness said.
Online videos of the dispersal showed the students chanting, “The police are thugs,” police running after female protesters, and students throwing rocks at police.
Students called for the dismissal of education minister El-Hilali El-Sherbini as well holding ministry officials responsible for the current spate of online exam leaks, chanting “You leak the exams, see how many students’ dreams are destroyed”.
Furthermore, students also demanded the cancellation of the current grading system used by high school students in Egypt to apply for university and rejected the ministry’s decision to postpone the remaining Thanaweya Amma exams to July to avoid further leaks.
One of the angry students in the protest said, “These leaks come from inside the ministry.” Another added. “It’s not our responsibility that they can’t prevent cheating.”
At the same time in Alexandria, another protest was organized by high school students against the education ministry at the Alexandria Bibliotheca. Students also protested in Mansoura, Tanta, Ismailia and Sharqia.
Monday’s protests marked the second day in a row that high school students gathered to protest against the ministry of education and its current minister.
Since the beginning of the exam season in early June, all exams have been leaked via social media, prior to or during the exams.
The education ministry spokesperson Bashir Hassan told the media that the ministry had to cancel the applied math exam to achieve justice among students.
“We are facing a [group] that defies all state institutions, not only one or two people,” Hassan said, expressing his sympathy with the high school students and their families.
However, he refused to hold the ministry of education responsible for the exam leaks, Hassan said that state institutions vowed to defeat the group responsible for leaking the exams.
The case of the high school exam leaks was referred by Egypt’s Prosecutor general to High state security prosecution for further investigations.
Earlier this month, security forces arrested a number of Facebook pages administrators for allegedly leaking the exams.
The public prosecution had ordered the arrest of a university student who managed a Facebook page with half a million followers, entitled “Chao-Ming Helps Thanaweya Amma Students Cheat” that leaks exam answers and questions to high school students. The Facebook administrator was charged with helping students cheat.
An investigation by the general prosecution also revealed that one of the officials at the ministry’s printing house was allegedly responsible for the leak and is currently detained pending investigation.
Shortly afterward, the interior ministry announced that it had arrested three more people suspected of managing Facebook pages that facilitate cheating before the exam.
“Despite the recent arrests in the controversial case, several Facebook pages are still leaking the exams. This year marks the fourth year in a row, where exams and answers have been leaked online,” reported al-Ahram.
Thanaweya Amma exams are standardized tests that its grades determine students’ university prospects and they are often a source of stress and pressure for students and families. This year around 600,000 students are entering for the exams this year.