Baccalauréat cancelled over mass fraud, students rampage

Angry high school students caused severe damage in the Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville and other towns while protesting against the cancellation of baccalauréat exams due to widespread leaks of the questions on social media.

The Education Ministry decided to stop the exam, which gives students who pass it the right to higher education, on the third and last day of the session.

France 24 noted that 66,582 'bac' candidates were hit by the cancellation, and reported that pupils it contacted had confirmed having received the questions on social media WhatsApp and Facebook.

Education Ministry representative Alfred Malonga told France 24 that the minister, Hellot Matson Mampouya, had been told about the leaks on Monday 1 June, but had waited to hear the conclusions of a police inquiry before taking the decision to cancel the exam.

‘Serious irregularities’

He explained that in previous years exam fraud had been evident but “to our knowledge it concerned isolated cases. But this year the level has risen sharply through social media. We understand the frustration of the students but cannot tolerate acts of violence”.

Mampouya said a new examination schedule would be announced soon.

During a press conference on 5 June, Mampouya said that the examination, though “flawlessly prepared”, had serious irregularities during its proceedings, reported the news agency ADIAC.

It was obvious that questions, published on the internet the day before the exam, were identical to those due to be presented to candidates.

“From that moment, we judged it would be irresponsible to let the examination continue normally, while so many irregularities were occurring. And for reasons of credibility we have decided to cancel this session. But that does not mean it is a lost year. It simply means we shall publish very soon a new schedule for the replacement session,” said Mampouya.

Students reacted violently

But students in several towns reacted violently against the cancellation. Cars and houses were pelted with stones, doors and windows of schools smashed and shops looted following the cancellation of the exam for “massive frauds” and “serious irregularities”, reported Radio France International.

In Brazzaville the Education Ministry was stoned and the windows of a vehicle parked there were smashed. Scenes of vandalism were witnessed in many parts of the town, and in the Bacongo district a supermarket was looted, reported RFI.

In the district of Talangai youths stoned vehicles and attacked offices, breaking windows. Shops were closed and traffic was disrupted, reported ADIAC.

ADIAC also reported that an educational inspection headquarters at Ollombo, more than 300 kilometres from Brazzaville, was looted and set on fire.

In Dolisie, the principal lycée – upper secondary school – was set on fire and all administrative files and archives were reduced to ashes, reported ADIAC. “Only the blackened walls of this building remained, the structure having collapsed in the flames.”

Barricades of desks were erected on the school’s main driveway. Demonstrators seized an abandoned police vehicle and drove it to a petrol station where they set it alight, destroying it completely. Local residents evacuated the area, reported ADIAC.

The demonstrators also attacked a primary school being used as an exam centre. Its administration building was ransacked and documents were scattered in the yard. A recently constructed building was set on fire.

In the town centre the metal doorway of the former police headquarters was broken and its windows smashed. Offices and shops were closed for fear of looting.

Student, teacher speak out

France 24 interviewed a student and a teacher about the situation.

Whezis, the student, said he was on the way to the exam when a “horde of angry students” rushed towards him shouting that it was over. They ransacked a pharmacy, and broke the windows of the bus he was about to take. “Some even took advantage to loot shops.”

He said the violence was an indication of their frustration, “because cancelling a whole examination on the last day makes it seem as if you’ve done nothing.

“But to be honest, many were relieved because it was unthinkable to have passed the bac in these conditions, where it was enough to go on Facebook the day before to know the question and the correct answer. We wouldn’t want to pass the bac through cheating.”

Yves Bilouboudi, a mathematics teacher at a lycée in Brazzaville, told France 24 he did not understand why the ministry waited until the third and last day before taking its decision. “We work nine months to prepare the pupils, often in difficult conditions. It’s appalling to see how it has ended up this year.”

He added that it was not the first time there had been fraud in his and his colleagues’ experience. “But this year the extent of the cheating has gone beyond what one imagined.

“This discredits a whole generation of pupils, and also the teachers, because there must be complicity within the examiners or in the teaching body for these questions to leak out. I dare to hope the 2015 session will be the time to put an end to these practices once and for all.”

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.