Teachers' strike adds to Mauritanian bac candidates' nerves
By Mohamed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 19/06/08
Mauritanian media is buzzing with news about the upcoming baccalaureate exams. Both parents and students are apprehensive about the bac, hoping and praying for good results. This year's stress level is even higher due to a teachers' strike which may cause the exams to be postponed.
Approximately 20,000 Mauritanian students are working hard in preparation for the baccalaureate exams scheduled to begin on June 30th. Teachers seeking higher pay and a review of the laws on promotions, however, began a general strike on May 26th. They are not expected to return to their duties before July 11th.
Education Minister Nebghouha Mint Mohamed Vall told the press on Thursday (June 12th) that the number of striking teachers was less than 40%, but Mohammed Ould Rebani, Secretary-General of the Teachers' Syndicate, said Tuesday that the number is actually about 80%.
Vall insisted that the number of teachers remaining "is enough to conduct the baccalaureate exams, slated to start on June 30th."
The tensions between teachers and the government are causing some students anxiety.
"The situation is really difficult," said science student Sayad Ahmed. "We contacted our teachers 20 days ago at a time when we needed them very badly. Now and then we hear rumours that the exams are going to be postponed; something that really clutters our minds as students. It seems that the baccalaureate exams will be truly difficult in our country this year."
Many students, however, are pressing on with their studies.
"I spend the day reviewing alone at home, but in the evening, I join a group of colleagues in order to study together on things that were difficult for us during the day," said contemporary arts student Aicha. "I think that we, as students, have to do our part, i.e. to review and study, and the teachers and ministry officials have to do their part towards us. The bottom line is that everyone has to bear their own responsibilities; if you work hard you will succeed, and you'll reap what you've sown," she added, while collecting her papers.
The Ministry of Education said it expects a large number of female candidates to sit for the exams this year. Women's activist Fatima told Magharebia: "In recent years, the media coverage of women's issues in the country has had an effective role in stressing the need to educate women and promote them on the level of administrative positions. Therefore, it is natural that we see this big demand for baccalaureate education seats by women. This is a very positive thing."
Mohammed Fadel, father of two daughters and one son who are all sitting for the bac this year, has gone to great lengths to ensure his children's educational success.
"I have bought a lot of books and notes," he said, "and I have paid the bills for additional classes during the year. Educational expenses have surpassed living expenses by far. Yet, I still worry about the future of my children. This is the first time they sit for the baccalaureate exams, the atmosphere of which usually affects the psychological aspect of the students because of certain elements they are not accustomed to, such as security forces, inspectors, observers, etc."
With a low pass rate of 15% in the nation-wide experimental bac exams held two months ago, many students fear that the government may grade the actual exams in a similarly harsh manner.
Whether held on June 30th or another date, the results will tell in this year's baccalaureate exams.
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