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From the field

Bethlehem: IDF curfew causes poor results on matriculation exams, June 2002

Wafa Faraj, student, aged 19

I am a high school student in the academic track at the Bethlehem Girls School. The school is located on a-Saf Street in downtown Bethlehem.

The matriculation exams were supposed to start on Monday, 17 June 2002. We took the first exam, which was Arabic. The next day, we took the second exam, which was the second part of the Arabic exam. On Thursday, the 20th, the Israeli army reinvaded Bethlehem and imposed a curfew on the area. As a result, we couldn't leave our houses and take the third exam, which was English. The Maher television station broadcast an announcement by the Ministry of Education that the third exam had been postponed and would be held on Saturday, the 22nd.

The television station broadcast that the curfew would be lifted on Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. We went to the Girls School. There was a great deal of confusion and many students did not show up. The exams did not arrive until 11:00 A.M. We started to take the exam, which was supposed to be three hours. The exam finished around 14:00 P.M. The curfew started again during the exam, and when we left the school, the streets were empty. We had to walk home, which put us in a life-threatening situation. While we were walking home, an armored Israeli vehicle passed by. We were ten girls, residents of Duha. The vehicle was about fifty meters from us. It fired at us and we had to run and hide inside the nearby houses. About half an hour later, we continued on our way home. We were deathly afraid that we would come across another Israeli vehicle, so we did not use the main road. It took us about ninety minutes to get home. My mother and brothers worried a lot because I was late.

I started to study for the fifth exam. I was very tired and worried about the marks I would get on the exams. On Monday [26 June], the day scheduled for the fifth exam, which was mathematics, there was no announcement that the curfew would be lifted. I was very concerned. The Director General of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Abdullah Shaqarneh, asked the students taking the exam to go to the school closest to their homes to take the exam. The other girls from my area and I left home during the curfew. We were very frightened, and were not mentally prepared to take the exam. We walked about five hundred meters to the Alhulafa a-Rashdin School, in Duha. We waited in the schoolyard until the exams arrived from the Ministry of Education and until the teachers managed to get to the school. Very few pupils had arrived at the school. The atmosphere was very bad and tiring. All the time we worried that the soldiers would invade the rooms where we were taking the exams, because we heard that they had done that elsewhere in the West Bank. During the exam, I cried and had trouble concentrating. I was frightened. I was thinking about how I would get home under the curfew.

The exam ended at 3:00 P.M., and we started to walk home. This time, we did not come across any Israeli vehicles. I arrived home tired and worn out. I felt sure that I didn't pass the exam. I was supposed to prepare for the second mathematics exam, which was to be given on Thursday, the 27th. On that day, the curfew was lifted and we took the exam without any problems. The seventh exam, on the religion of Islam, took place on Saturday, the 29th, without any problem. On Monday, the first of July, the biology exam was held without any problems. On Wednesday [3 July], we were supposed to take the physics exam, but the curfew had not been lifted. We didn't hear any announcement by the director general of the Ministry of Education to go to the nearby school. The exam had been postponed. The postponement caused us great problems. We have to prepare for the physics exam tomorrow [4 July], and we heard on television tat the curfew would be lifted tomorrow. That will be the last exam. We will have taken eight of the ten exams in very difficult conditions and in a poor emotional state. We don't know whether or not we did well.

Wafa '‘Adnan Hassan Faraj is 19 year-old and single. He is a high school student, and a resident of Duha, Bethlehem District. The testimony was taken by Suha Zeyd at Faraj's home on 3 July, 2002