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Rule of leaving ears uncovered during an exam: Decision pending on the results of several students

Rule of leaving ears uncovered during an exam: Decision pending on the results of several students

23 Jun 2024 | – By Pamodi Waravita

The Examinations Department is considering the situation of Advanced Level (A/L) students who have allegedly disobeyed the examination rule of uncovering their ears for the entire duration they are in the exam hall. 

The A/L examination results of 70 students from Zahira College, Trincomalee are yet to be released as they have allegedly disobeyed the rule of leaving their ears uncovered for the duration of the exam. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Commissioner General of Examinations Amith Jayasundara said that the examination rule – to leave both ears uncovered for the entire duration that a person is in the exam hall – had been reached after extensive consultations with many groups, including Muslim religious groups, and had then been passed in Parliament a few years back. 

“It is not enough to merely show the ears to the examiner when entering the exam hall as we cannot determine whether they will use a bluetooth device afterwards. The rule is to leave both ears uncovered the entire time they are in the exam hall,” said Jayasundara. 

He went on to note that the said 70 students whose results were yet to be released had been advised by examination officials present at the hall to leave their ears uncovered. “Two students did so properly and they had no issue,” he said. 

Jayasundara said that the students had not yet been disqualified and that the department was considering the situation bearing in mind that they were children. 

“There is awareness about this rule, so it must be followed at all instances,” he stressed, adding that in some other centres, too, students had been advised to show their ears and an issue had not arisen since they had followed suit. 

A/L students

A teacher close to the students, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Sunday Morning that the students had been wearing a shawl wrapped around their heads – not hijabs – and had assured him that it had been worn in a manner that ensured the ears were visible. 

According to him, the students had sat for the exam at St. Joseph’s College in Trincomalee. 

“These students move from out of town so they can complete their A/L education at Zahira College. They have spent a lot of time and money for their education, so we expect a response soon,” he said. 

Parliamentarian M.S. Thowfeek, who represents the Trincomalee District, told The Sunday Morning that he too had spoken with the department regarding the matter. “The officers said that the results will be released with Executive Board approval,” he said. 

Meanwhile, speaking to The Sunday Morning, Activist Shreen Saroor, noting that the girls had worn the head shawl so their ears could be easily visible, said that these penalisations were part of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that was being perpetuated, “not just by the Sinhala Buddhist majority but also the Tamil community”. 

“It is systematic and it penalises Muslim girls systematically. Muslim girls rarely get the chance to sit for the A/Ls, so when they do, they should not face these systematic barriers,” she said.

“Politicians from the area are politicising the issue on Hindutva-Islam communal lines for their own political gains, with elections just around the corner,” she further alleged, stressing that the issue should be solved with a rights-based approach.

Principal examinations 

Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) Parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman also pointed to an instance in October 2023 at an examination centre in Kotahena for the principal-appointment examinations. 

“Thirteen Muslim women’s results have not been released for wearing the hijab during the principal-appointment exams. However, when they were entering the hall, they had shown their ears to the supervisor. Yes, they had violated the rule of leaving the ears uncovered during the duration of the exam, but the issue here is the supervisor’s attitude.

"The same supervisor who had allowed them to sit the exam after checking their ears on the first day, had raised an issue on the second day. If the supervisor had informed, the women would have followed the rule,” he said.

“They had written the exam trusting the supervisor, but the same supervisor had then said they had violated the rules.”

He said an initial inquiry had happened in December 2023, but when the results were released in March this year, the 13 teachers, all from the Western Province, had not received their results. 

“I met the Commissioner General of Examinations who promised another inquiry into the matter,” said Rahman.

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