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News 19 Mar 15

Macedonian Pupils Revolt Against Exam Regime

To the sounds of 'Rage against the Machine', thousands of high school pupils held a protest in Skopje on Thursday, denouncing the exam system as 'torture'.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Under the motto "Stop the Bad Reforms in Education", high school pupils in Macedonia marched from the city park in Skopje to the front of the Education Ministry in the city centre, demanding that that government scrap graduation exams.

United in an umbrella movement called the High School Plenum, the protesters oppose the concept of externally controlled state-run graduation exams in high schools, which are intended to check their skills and evaluate whether teachers have done their work.

They also want the scrapping of envisaged additional compulsory math exams, which they say create an impossible burden.

The protesters say the new exams have replaced the real reforms in education that they need.

“You have tried to shape us into apathetic adolescents that will form part of the wider lethargy in society. You directly attacked one of our rights, the right of free choice. You tried to make us servile conformists who will applaud your hypocrisy,” Evgenija Janakievska, from the High School Plenum, told at the rally.

“Our presence here is positive consequence of your goal, which is to create a nation of mediocrities,” she added.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Pupils held banners saying “This is not graduation, this is torture,” “No to bad reforms”, “I will fail to graduate, so will the system”.

The protest began and ended with the tunes of the US rock band “Rage Against the Machine”.

The preparations of the central protest in Skopje have drawn opposition.

Preparations drew a hostile counter-campaign. Posters by unknown authors have been placed in front of many high schools, warning pupils not to protest.

"For an experiment they need mice. Don not allow them to experiment on you like Soros did with me," one poster reads, referring to George Soros.

The message echoes the narrative of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, which has long campaigned against so-called "Sorosoids", portraying them as mercenaries working for foreign interests.

The Hungarian-born American business magnate, is known for his support for politically liberal causes and movements thoughout Central and Southeast Europe. He is the founder and backer of the Open Society foundation, an NGO which is also active in Macedonia.

In the central town of Veles, where pupils held a smaller protest last week, posters by unknown authors alleging that the organizers, named in person, had each received some 160 euro as a reward from Soros.

Civil, an NGO, and the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights condemned the pressures against the protesting pupils.

They announced more protests should the authorities stay deaf to their demands.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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