Top Student Gets 7 “Zeroes” – Egyptian Most Absurd Corruption Case

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Sep 07 2015
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Previously, you’ve read how two Filipino divers deliberately and spectacularly scored “Zero” during the 2015’s 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore, so that the “Splash Brothers” could embarrass the Philippines sport authorities into splashing money. Now, there’s something equally bizarre happening in Egypt.


Egyptian Maryam Malak had achieved nearly perfect marks in previous years, results which made her one of Egypt’s top performing high school students. Naturally, her expectations were high after her final exam. She was confident of making it to the medical school. However when the results were announced, her name wasn’t there.


If you think it was unbelievably jaw-dropping that two Filipino divers had scored “Zero”, wait till you read the results of Miss Maryam. She scored “Zero” out of 100 not just on one exam paper, but on all seven she sat. Malak told BBC – “I was completely shocked … I couldn’t hear anyone, I couldn’t speak … I thought how that can happen? How can I get zero?”


When even an idiot couldn’t have scored zero in all seven exam papers, it’s simply mind-boggling for a smart girl from El Miniya, southern Egypt, to achieve that. Initially, she and her family suspected foul play and speculated she could be deliberately failed because she’s a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Maryam Mariam Malak - Egyptian Top Student Gets Seven Zeros in Exam

However, now her family believes that she is a victim of corruption. Her brother, Mina, believes either the school or the examination board swapped her papers with another student who obviously wasn’t doing as well but has lots of money to burn. Her shocking story successfully rallies thousands of Egyptian supporters.


Her Facebook has garnered more than 35,000 Likes and the hashtag “I believe Mariam Malak” is trending. The Egyptian Ministry of Education investigated and subjected Malak to five handwriting tests, afterwards concluding that the flunking exam papers were indeed hers. She and her supporters refuse to accept that conclusion.

Maryam Mariam Malak - Egyptian Top Student Gets Seven Zeros in Exam - Cry

Hence, she did a second handwriting test on live Egyptian television. This time, it showed that the handwriting on the exam papers was markedly different. Since her story came to light, another top student came forward to protest her own zero grades. So far, the family have met with the country’s prime minister – Ibrahim Mahlab – who promised to look into her case.


Nevertheless, this is clearly another milestone in the Egyptian education system where similar incidents of exam fraud get reported every year. Malak’s case gets the huge publicity because the education system rife with corruption has gotten out of control, so much so that the authorities couldn’t care about covering their acts.

Maryam Mariam Malak - Egyptian Top Student Gets Seven Zeros in Exam - Moheb El-Rafie - Education Minister

An Egyptian journalist’s post on Facebook in solidarity with Malak, revealed that three education officials were demoted and penalised for exposing exam fraud cases by their fellow “control” officials. “Controls” refer to the education ministry’s centralised marking and grading department and its regional branches.


According to the post by journalist Ahmed Abu ElKhair, officials in the “control” allowed the son of a senior security official, who had already sat for the final high school exam, to have a “second chance” at it. He was allowed to copy the perfect answers provided by “control” officials. And this “cheater” got the highest score which qualifies him to enter university.

Maryam Mariam Malak - Egyptian Top Student Gets Seven Zeros in Exam - Ibrahim Mahlab - Prime Minister

For as much as 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,280; RM5,500) per subject, “Control” officials offer a similar service to children of businessmen or anyone who can afford to pay. The simplest cheating method is switching exam papers – a student who passed is failed and the failed student passes.


The most vulnerable students who are likely to be failed are usually the poor and people without “wasta” – Arabic word which means getting something through nepotism or favouritism rather than merit. Obviously the poor Maryam Malak has no wasta. But it was her family’s perseverance for investigation and threatens to take the case to an international court that brought her case to light.

Egypt Poor School

Interestingly, the forensic authority that confirmed there was no exam paper switching in Maryam Malak’s case is the same authority that ruled Egytian activist Khalid Sayyid – who was tortured to death by police in June 2010 – died after swallowing marijuana to avoid detection by police.


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