A fraction of the 1,000 Menelik II Preparatory School students stood outside the gates of their exam centres in the early hours of the day last week. Pencils and blank papers were at the ready. Security was tight, and instant messaging apps were restricted to safeguard against exam cheating. Preparations were tensely anticipated for half a year, as the national matriculation exams are necessary to enter public or private accredited universities in the country.

Students would generally worry whether they would pass the exams. But, these are not regular times owing to public health risks due to COVID-19 and the civil war. The administration of the exams was not taken for granted. Close to 618,000 students had been registered for the exams this year, double last year's figure. The scrapping of national exams for 10th-grade students meant that more students passed to the subsequent grades. Hence, they sat for college entrance exams. Yet close to 131 examination centres were closed due to the raging war in the Amhara and Afar regional states. No students were registered in the Tigray Regional State.

The security situation determines what will happen to students who pass the national matriculation exams. Several universities in the north have already been closed, including Meqelle, Axum, Adigrat, Raya, Woldiya and Wello universities. How long other universities in close proximity to the fighting will remain open is the subject of discussion. Few students would also be willing to venture too far from their homes for education. Many uncertainties cloud the situation in Ethiopia, but, inevitably, years, perhaps decades, of learning outcomes have already been reversed.

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PUBLISHED ON Nov 13,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1124]

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