Wednesday, August 01, 2012 -
Mobile phone services were blacked out across Uzbekistan Wednesday to prevent students from cheating during university entrance examinations.
The state Communications Agency ordered the country’s cell phone operators to cut off text messaging, mobile internet, and MMS (multimedia messaging service) for five hours around the exams Wednesday morning.
"Mobile internet and other services will be suspended from 08.30 to 13.30 local time," an unidentified source in the agency told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
The step was taken to prevent Uzbek students from using the services to guarantee fair exam taking procedures, the source said.
Competition for a place in one of the country’s universities or institutes is intense, with on average of around eight Uzbek youths vying for each space.
This year’s exams pitted more than 430,000 applicants for 56,000 spots, said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in a report on the lengths students will go to cheat.
The most sought-after institutes, such as the Tashkent Medical Academy division in Ferghana city, see applicants outnumber places by 21 to 1.
Corruption is so prevalent that exam supervisors and security officers who stand guard during the August 1 exams openly take bribes to look the other way.
Also students will pay cheating rings to supply someone who will sit an exam in their place using fake ID papers.
One instructor told RFE/RL she always tells entrants: “You should either have golden pockets or a golden brain to enter university.”