Bac students in Mauritania prepare for exams
By Mohamed Yahya Ould Abdel Wedoud for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 27/05/09
Thousands of Mauritanian students are busy these days preparing for the baccalaureate exams. It's a "make it or break it" situation for many of them, since their future success depends on the results.
According to Ministry of National Education (MEN) records, 37,454 students will take part in the bac exams this June; a number some 13,000 higher than last year.
"A number of measures were taken this year in order to provide a convenient atmosphere for the bac exams," said MEN spokesman Sayed Ahmed Ould Abka. "For instance, we posted lists of candidates' names and numbers online before sending out invitations in order to avoid the errors which often take much time and effort to correct."
With less than six weeks to go, students have a lot to review. Many of them spend the better part of their day in public libraries and cultural centres, reading through books and other sources to ensure the best knowledge of the material and compensate for what they've missed in the classroom.
Some prefer to study in groups. They can exchange information and share knowledge.
"We review in groups, where we discuss topics, apply them and learn together," said Mariam, 23, a student in the department of natural sciences.
Students with better financial resources opt to enrol in independent schools for additional schooling hours, where many said they have better and more comprehensive teaching mechanisms.
Ahmednah, head of an independent school, said that students started to enrol in independent schools a month ago. There are many reasons to opt for these programmes, he said.
"Teachers in state-owned schools do not have enough time to cover all of the bac courses. This drives students to resort to private education to bridge those gaps that may have a substantial impact on the day of the exam."
Another reason is that "public schools teach for only six hours a day. Independent schools, on the other hand, are open all day, and for some hours at night, as well. Hence, students prefer independent schools," said Sidat, director of another independent school.
"We are also in close touch with our well-off students in private schools, and we exchange notes and experiments," said 23-year-old Mariam . "Our aim is one and the same, to obtain the bac [degree]."
Access to the internet and the huge amount of information on the web helps students gain knowledge in a faster and relatively cheaper way. Students pack internet cafes these days, and some of them browse for information on their mobile phones too.
"Looking for information is no longer a problem these days, thanks to modern technology," said Al Mustapha Ould Al Kuri, an arts department student. "We copy important summaries of our courses, which, in turn, help enrich our discussions with teachers and even classmates."
There were concerns that the instable political situation in Mauritania would cast its shadow on the exams and on student performance. But the ministry of education stressed that politics will not affect the exams.
To get ready for the exams in June, students took practice tests from May 18th to 21st. These mock exams went very well, according to students and officials.
"It is safe to say that the political situation will not affect the exams, as long as both are not in any way connected," said spokesman Ould Abka.
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