Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Hard times

Part of Ramadan falls during the exams season this year, leaving students to sit their tests when they may not have eaten or drunk for up to nine hours, writes Omneya Yousry

Al-Ahram Weekly

We are once again at that blessed time of the year when mosques are cleaned, delicious food is prepared at home, and there is a gentle hum of anticipation in the air. This can only mean the advent of Ramadan.

Whilst some are busy making preparations and competitively discussing how many times they will finish reading the Qur’an, others are left with an understandable knot in their stomachs: how will they get the most out of Ramadan this year when they are also taking school exams?

The fasting this year coincides with the high school (thanaweya amma) exams, for which students need to redouble their efforts, difficult at a time when they are also fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Azhar has issued a fatwa (legal ruling) in this regard, stating that it’s permissible for students taking the thanawayya amma exams to not fast, as it is for people suffering from certain health conditions.

But it is not permissible for an adult of sound mind to break the fast during Ramadan because of exams, Al-Azhar says, as this is not permitted in Islam. In cases of this sort, the individual concerned must study at night if he cannot do so during the day.

Those in charge of exams should, however, make allowances for students, if possible arranging them at a time other than Ramadan and allowing students both to fast and to prepare for their exams.

In one hadith report, it is said that the Prophet Mohamed (peace and the blessings of God be upon him) said, “O Allah, whoever is appointed over any of my ummah’s affairs and treats them kindly, treat him kindly, and whoever is appointed over any of my ummah’s affairs and treats them harshly, treat him harshly.”

While some who have problems fasting during exams have claimed they face additional challenges this Ramadan, others have welcomed the fast taking place at the same time as examinations. Stress and anxiety about the exams hinder them from eating any food anyway, they say.

“The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial,” says Omneya Yehia, an 18-year-old student. “How can I can ask Allah to give me power and success when I’m not submissive to his orders? We should believe that God is with us during exams as long as we are committed to our promises to him,” she says.

“The problem is not Ramadan anyway. It’s more to do with the exam timetable. For example, we only have two days before the geography exam. Unlike many of my schoolmates, I have decided to study both before and after iftar. I also won’t be watching any of the TV shows during Ramadan until I finish my exams.

“I have colleagues who are intending to not fast on exam days. Others say they will sleep through the day until iftar, and a few have even said they don’t intend to study anymore as they believe they have done enough since the beginning of the year,” she says.

Doaa Hammad, a parent, said she has several objections to holding exams during Ramadan. “First off, we are in summer when the days are very long and the dawn comes very early, which means that students will go to sit their tests after almost six hours of fasting, plus taking exams lasting three hours, and all this without drinking any water. There are also not enough hours at night in which they can study.”

“Second, all the most difficult subjects are set to start in Ramadan, like physics, chemistry, calculus, statistics and algebra. Third, Ramadan is a time for the whole family. This year all the families who have children sitting exams will be deprived of the pleasure of a family Ramadan.

“What I cannot understand is why those who are in charge of setting the exams didn’t set them earlier. Most students finished the curriculum a long time ago, and they have been revising since then,” Hammad added.

Dalia Magdy, a 17-year-old student, said she doesn’t know how she will organise her time during Ramadan. “I’m sure I’ll watch nothing on TV, and I’m already not allowed to use my mobile or my PC except for specified hours in the day,” she said.

According to Heba Abdel-Halim, a lecturer in therapeutic diets, students taking exams during Ramadan should make sure they follow basic nutrition tips to enhance their performance and their health during the holy month.

“They should have an early breakfast and follow the sunna by eating dates, which allow carbohydrates to be swiftly absorbed by the body,” she says. “Then they should do maghrib prayers to give the stomach the chance to absorb food.”

“Drinking plenty of water and fresh juice is a must. The iftar meal should contain a plate of salad, with a small amount of meat and a medium amount of carbohydrates such as rice, bread or pasta.

“For sohour, it’s recommended to eat yoghurt and fresh vegetables, as well as beans, which contain complex carbohydrates that are useful in keeping up the body’s energy. Choose foods that break down gradually and provide energy throughout the day for your suhoor and iftar meals,” Abdel-Halim advises.

Other experts spoken to by the Weekly advised that only when you acknowledge and understand your task can you begin to prepare for it. No one says things will be easy, they said, but don’t be prepared to settle for anything less than the best. Other good advice they offered is given below.

Begin today by taking stock of how much revision you have done and how much you still have to do, the experts said. Don’t see this as a quick five-minute exercise: review your work and plan how you will use the remaining time before your exams to prepare for them.

Are there areas where you struggle and will need to dedicate more hours? Are you sufficiently prepared for the exams? What else can you do? Have you sought guidance from other students who have already sat the exams? Have you practiced on past papers? Have you discussed how you can boost your grade with your teachers?

Keep in mind factors like the dawn and sunset timings, what days you have exams on, and which exams will need intensive preparation. Chart out your own personalised Ramadan timetable. Create a timetable now and work to perfect it. As Aristotle said, “We are what we do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Sleep as early as possible after taraweeh and add naps to your daytime timetable, as you will need to keep your mind fresh and sharp for the exams. The day of the exams will also require a different timetable: you need to tailor your timetable to your needs and what you feel will be of most benefit to you.

One suggestion is that you refresh your mind prior to entering the exam room by getting some fresh air or relaxing with friends. Don’t bury your head in books just before you enter. This can cause panic and be counter-productive.

Try to avoid discussing the exam after it has finished. Nothing will change on the exam paper and you will be left until results day wishing you had given different answers.

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