Certification Exams in Eastern Ghouta, Bringing ‘Liberated Areas’ back to Life
Enab Baladi Issue # 80 – Sun, Sep. 1st 2013
The first standardized exam for students’ certificates in the liberated areas and Syrian camps was August 15, 2013. It was organized by the education institute and supported by the national coalition in a serious step to bring back life to these areas. However, learning has become an accusation that requires a punishment from the regime. Enab Baladi has visited some schools, where these exams have taken place, and has met the director of these schools in Eastern Ghouta who has asked us to make no mention of his name. He was the general supervisor of the exams there and he told us about these exams at Ghouta. Moreover, Enab Baladi has also met people from the staff and some students and we have asked them about their participations in this experience and about their opinions. It is worth mentioning that all people, whom we have met, asked us to make no mention of their names because they were afraid of the regime and they insisted that this report would not be printed any time before the last day of the exams because they were afraid of the cruel reaction. We did not take pictures of the exam rooms or of any students.
Preparation for the Exams:
The school’s director told us that the number of students who were supposed to take the exams was 840 ninth grade students and 540 secondary certificate students. They were divided on 21 schools all around Eastern Ghouta. “Institute of learning and education is responsible for this exam in Eastern Ghouta and for the general exams in all liberated areas in Syria” he added “we have got a support from an independent education institute and from the Board of Education and Higher Education Institute that belongs to the Syrian National Coalition”. He also spoke about the exams and the mechanics that were used in choosing questions. He said: “the questions are put by committees outside of Syria for security. They are sent secretly to me at the night of the exam for each subject via Skype”. He described the level of security and secret secrecy in questions as an excellent one. There was a special committee for printing, after that the questions were transported in stamped envelopes securely via the director half an hour before the beginning of each exam. Then they were opened in front of the students in their rooms. He added: “the questions are standardized for secondary certificate students in Ghouta, Daraa, all liberated areas inside Syria, and in refugee camps in the neighboring countries. The questions include all information that a secondary student should know”.
The supervisor mentioned that many obstacles faced the staff. “Lack of electricity is the most important obstacle that we faced”, he said. “The fuel that is required to generate it for printing questions and lighting the schools is expensive; besides, the higher price of papers and ink is an obstacle as well”. In addition, there were the daily attacks by the regime forces, especially on the 21st of August, 2013 when Ghouta was attacked by using chemical weapons. “Some students and their families were martyred. The director of one school was also martyred in Ain Tarma and the exam in that school was delayed for another day”.
Accommodations for the Examination:
We met the directors of one school who spoke about the success of the school by allowing the students concentrate on their questions during the exam. She said that she did not expect the results. “All our exams take place on time and we receive the questions on their exact time. There are no means of cheating between students. The teachers do their job in a good way. Every room includes a specific number of students; all students have an I.D card for the exam. There are guards at the gate of each school, and the workers inside the school make sure that only students and workers are inside the school. In addition, the education institute is separated from any kind of military forces”. Moreover, she was proud of what was done in Eastern Ghouta in spite of all the circumstances. There are many barriers on the way to schools, and there were many concerns that the names of the teachers, the staff, and the students would be known by the regime. “We will face great danger if our names are known, we will be put on the wanted list just because we teach the students” she said.
Organization and Self -discipline:
Enab Baladi also met a teacher who works in the learning institute and her job was correcting the papers. She spoke about her participation and was proud to be part of this “civilized step”. “I did not expect all this organization; I went to the learning institute and told them that I wanted to participate in this experience. My order was approved a week before the exam. Then, we attended a meeting in the same school that the exam was going to take place in a day before the schools started. In the meeting, the guidelines, that are put for the exams are explained. We also visited the rooms where the exams were going to take place in. Then we received the exam timetables so we could know what we should do”. She said that there were no means of cheating in the school where she worked. “There is a kind of responsibility among the students”, she added, “it is the first time I felt that learning is essential and that students want to learn not only for the certificate or marks but also for the importance of learning. That is the reason for not finding any means of cheating between the students”. Licensed teachers in different domains were chosen for correcting the papers; they start after the end of every exam. They are only allowed to grade the papers in the education and learning institute only. “There are many guards as in all schools” she said.
One of the female students, who introduced herself by the name Ola, said that she was taking the secondary certificate exam for the first time, and talked about the questions: “The questions are easy and suitable for all students”, she added “the staff makes special efforts in keeping the school as quiet as possible and in reducing the noise of the generators and shelling sounds. They also try to keep us calm and reduce stress before the exam”. She added, “Really, we feel that we are important and that everyone is here for our benefit. We have also felt that correcting papers will be fair enough”.
The director of the school finished his meeting with Enab Baladi in a declaration that is important for all students, he declared, “we are pleasant to tell our students that the national institute for education and higher learning has promised to offer a scholarship for students who have a recognized certificate. It will be from Turkey, Jordan and some European countries”.