A high achieving schoolgirl in Egypt was understandably stunned when she discovered that, not only did she fail her final exams, but she scored a complete zero across the board.
Thousands of people have now rallied around Mariam Malak after she was given the lowest marks possible, with many suspecting corruption.
Mariam’s expectations for her results were high after she had achieved near perfect marks in previous years, making her one of Egypt’s top performing high school students.
However, her dreams of going to medical school were dashed when she saw the shocking results, scoring zero not just on one exam paper but on all seven that she sat!
Speaking to the BBC, she said:
I was completely shocked. I couldn’t hear anyone, I couldn’t speak. I thought how can that happen? How can I get zero?
Mariam’s family immediately suspected foul play and even wondered if she’d been targeted because she is part of Egypt’s minority Coptic Christian community.
Mariam’s story has found huge support on social media with people showing their support using the hashtag “I believe Mariam Malak”.
Corruption and bribery in Egypt’s education system is actually not uncommon, and Mariam’s brother alleges that the school or exam board may have swapped his sister’s papers with another student’s.
To get the minimum possible score, a pupil would have to basically leave the paper blank, and whoever filled out Malak’s exam papers only wrote out the questions.
The Egyptian Ministry of Education investigated and subjected Mariam to handwriting tests after which they were satisfied the tests were hers. However, Malak and her supporters have rejected that conclusion and, in a handwriting test live on Egyptian TV, she showed that her writing is markedly different from that on the supposed exam paper.
Malak and her family continue to hold out hope that her marks will be reviewed. They recently met with the country’s prime minister who, they say, promised to look into her case, while several high profile Egyptians have also offered funding for Mariam’s further education.
Hopefully they can get to the bottom of this one, sooner rather than later!