Here is a twist on the tragic stories Westerners have become familiar hearing about: two Arab Palestinians who had just completed high school committed suicide on Thursday, July 25. And here’s what is differently tragic about this story: these teenagers killed themselves not to seek martyrdom by killing as many Jews as possible, thereby bringing honor and glory to their families. No, the reason these young people killed themselves is something to which far more Westerners can relate, or, at least, understand.
These students committed suicide because they failed their final high school exams.
The exams are known as “Tawjihi,” and a passing score is virtually required for entrance to university.
According to Ma’an News Agency, 18-year-old Nisrin Jumaa of Tulkaram hanged herself in her family home after learning that she had failed the Tawjih, and in Jabaliya in Gaza, Muhammad Zaqut committed suicide by shooting himself after learning that he had failed the exams.
A third student attempted to take her life by throwing herself from the second floor of a building in Beit Hanoun, in Gaza, after learning she had not passed the exam. This student suffered pelvic and foot fractures and was transferred to a hospital in Gaza.
Are these exams that important? Indeed they are.
Every student in Gaza and the territories is required to take the dreaded exams upon completion of high school, and according to experts, an entire year is spent preparing for the exam. The test itself goes on for two weeks, and once completed, the results take another two to three weeks to be tabulated.
There is not that much written publicly about Tawjihi, but a blog written by an American of Arab Palestinian descent makes it clear how similar some things are for anxious teenagers, no matter how very different life is in so very many other ways. This blogger writes about the intensive preparatory courses for the exam, and the disparity in results due to economic differences. There are even Instagram and Tumblr sites just for Tawjihi.
The results, including the scores, of the Tawjihi are posted publicly. For the lucky few who perform at the highest levels, it is a matter of great honor for the families. For the families of the high scorers, halls are rented and enormous parties are held, and fireworks are shot off in celebration. For those who don’t fare well, the pain can be, literally, unbearable.
Applicants are permitted to take the tests as many as five times, although the test is only given once per year.
Nearly 86,000 students took the Tawjihi this June, and almost 60 percent passed.
The Tawjihi is also required of Jordanian students, and in Jordan it was the jubilation of some who passed that resulted in injuries. On February 14 of this year, in less than 24 hours, there were more than 380 Tawjihi-related accidents reported, mostly from “festive firing and reckless driving,” the Jordan times reported.