Mauritanian students prepare for baccalaureate exams amid political instability
By Mohamed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 18/03/09
Thousands of Mauritanian students are preparing for the baccalaureate exams under the pressure of an instable political situation, which is likely to cast a negative impact on the results, many students said.
The exams are scheduled to take place between June 2nd and June 30th. Incidentally, the presidential elections are scheduled for June 7th, the first since the coup led by Gen. Mohammed Ould Abdelaziz in August of last year.
The biggest concern the students have is to lose their teachers to the electoral campaign, when their priorities shift towards campaigning for their favourite candidate. This has happened before, said Leila Mint Mohamed, a 26-year old student. In the 2007 presidential elections, which brought to power ousted President Sidi Mohammed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, her school lost most of the teachers because they went out campaigning, before they finished the syllabuses.
"Out of the 70 students in my class, only three students passed," she said. "I hope that this scenario will not be repeated this year."
This "scenario" pushed many students to transfer to private schools, where students believe the teachers place education over political preferences.
El Weli Ould Sidi, a regular science student, is one of those who transferred to private schools. Along with a number of his friends, they preferred to study for the baccalaureate away from politics.
"This is because the next two months of May and June represent a period full of political activities, which will be negatively reflected on the regular schools because some of the teachers are affiliated with political parties, candidates and even constituencies," said Ould Sidi. "Consequently, the students of these schools will be victims of political ambition that they don't have anything to do with."
Private schools have become more dynamic and livelier than regular schools in the capital of Nouakchott. Banne Ould El Hacen, manager of Bab Al Elm private school, said that statistics show increasing numbers of students transferring to private schools each year.
"They noticed that about 80% of successful students last year were students who frequented private schools," he said. "This year, we have seen a bigger demand, which will raise the percentage."
Meanwhile, teachers and education officials encouraged students to only pay attention to the exams and spend time with their books. Everything else will be taken care of by the schools, they said. The agenda this year is to finish the curricula ahead of the start of the electoral campaign on May 20th, to give the students enough time for review, said Ahmed Ould Ali, a director of studies.
"This will give the students an opportunity to do more review. People shouldn't be worried in this regard," he said.
"We are doing all we can to help our students both educationally and administratively in this year's exams," said Aicha Ment Cheikh, a secondary school director.
And with politics or not, Vadel Ould Ahmed, a math teacher, believed that the family plays an extremely important role in the baccalaureate stage. The family encourages the students to study more, no matter what the atmosphere is, he said.
"Parents are required to provide a suitable atmosphere for studying," Ahmed added. "This is in addition to providing all necessary items, such as books, tools, and paying for additional tuition hours. The equation of success in baccalaureate is bilateral and requires the joint efforts of teachers and parents alike."
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