Hundreds of high school students are protesting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after the announcement of the cancellation and postponement of their national exams following reports of exam paper leaks.
Education Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre announced on Monday the cancellation of the exams which started last Saturday and was supposed to end on May 21. The resit is scheduled for May 27 to 31 and social media would be blocked during those days, he added.
It is not clear if the demonstrations were sparked by the cancellation of the papers or the planned shut down of social media. However, the government blames social media for the leaks.
Some Somalis have expressed displeasure with the government’s plan to block social media over exam leaks which is not new in Africa and other parts of the world.
Neighbouring Somaliland shut down social media in July 2018 for two hours each day of the four-day high school exam to curb leaks. The government said the shut down will prevent exam irregularities, the spread of fake papers and false rumours.
“It’s a temporary measure which will run for hours when the students are sitting for the exam papers. Social media has proven to be a threat to the examinations,” said the Somaliland Minister for Telecommunication and Technology, Abdiweli Sheikh Ibrahim.
Eight months before the shut down, the self-declared independent nation blocked the internet during its presidential election starting from the election day to the day the results were announced.
In the same year, Algeria also shut down its mobile and fixed internet connections for days during high school examination. The whole country went offline for several hours each day to prevent cheating. A similar move was carried out by Ethiopia in 2017 during its mandatory national high school exams.
This is also a common practice in India and Iraq where social media sites and the internet as a whole a shut down for exams and other reasons including elections.
According to Access Now, an advocacy group dedicated to an open and free internet, internet shutdowns and attempts to control the flow of information online during elections and protests do self-inflicted harm to human rights and the economy.
“They curtail access to information, stop freedom of expression, and block the exercise of many other rights that are absolutely vital for a functioning democracy,” it said.
African countries such as Uganda, Congo, Chad, Gabon, Niger, and Gambia have blocked internet connection during their elections in the past. However, the blockade did not reduce controversies during those elections.