Horror over the spread of coronavirus dominated the atmosphere of high school tests in Egypt this year, while the phenomenon of leaking exams continued for the third year in a row. Hundreds of students piled into their exams, some of them very late, with their parents, which increased the crowding and made social distancing impossible. The students posted videos and pictures on social media. The exams are taking place in an atmosphere of tension and fear amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Local newspapers said that one of the teachers assigned to the monitoring work was excluded after discovering that she was infected with coronavirus after entering the exams in al-Sayida Zainab, Cairo. The teacher justified her arrival by saying that the educational department refused to accept her apology and request to be absent despite the fact that she informed them she feels ill.

Students and parents said that exam preparation was different from what officials promised, in terms of the availability of sterilisation devices and the maintenance of social distancing. High school students have repeatedly called for the postponement or cancellation of exams this year, for fear of an outbreak of coronavirus among them, but the Egyptian authorities have rejected all proposals.

On the other hand, the Minister of Education Dr. Tariq Shawky, said that the pictures of gatherings and the noticeable crowds today in front of the high school examinations confirm that there is a crisis both in awareness about the virus and in people’s behaviour. Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that Shawky confirmed in a Whatsapp group that the ministry has taken great care with the directorates, departments, and committees to take measures to ensure internal organisation in the high school committees, but what people do outside the school is not the ministry’s business.

The overcrowding situation and the education minister’s statement caused a great deal of anger on social media, as many activists expressed their fear that the exams would cause a high rate of infection in the country. For the third year in a row, the Shawming high school exam cheating Facebook page published parts of the Arabic language exam for high school students in Egypt, 15 minutes after the start of the exam.

The Education Ministry said that it monitors these pages on communication sites in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, with the aim of arresting those responsible for them and referring them to the public prosecution. In turn, the Ministry of the Interior announced that it had arrested two people for promoting the leakage of high school exams through a social media application.

Observers say that forcing high school students to take exams that determine their future in the midst of a climate of terror means gambling with their future and increasing psychological pressure on them. Psychologists have warned that taking exams in this environment will not be a reflection of the students’ true abilities. During the past several years, incidents of student suicides have increased because of psychological pressure on them and the fear of disappointing their parents.