Vietnam student receives threats rather than thanks for whistle-blowing

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Police in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Giang said Friday that a 12th-grade student who recorded online clips of teachers and students cheating in a high-school graduation exam has been provided 24-hour security.

This is to prevent anything from happening to the whistleblower, known only as S., the Luc Nam District police told Thanh Nien without revealing the nature of the threats.

S. has said he faces a "mental crisis" due to pressure from family, friends, and teachers after one of his clips was posted on the Internet,

The film, posted on June 5, shows students openly using cheat sheets while taking the chemistry test in the high school graduation exam on June 2 at Doi Ngo Private High School.

The six-minute footage also shows proctors not doing anything to stop them and even abetting them by tossing in more crib notes from outside.

It is reported that S. joined hands with a former teacher of Doi Ngo school to record the clips with a camera pen while taking the exam.

According to the teacher, who wants to be known only as D.T.N., he has 12 clips recorded by S. and another student.

Though one of the clips was outed earlier than planned, he said he would provide police with the five others, but keep the rest to protect the other student's identity.

"S. is facing pressure ..., so his mental condition is not stable, worrying me," he said.

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"I don't want the other student who recorded the six other clips to face the same situation."

After the exams finished he had sent the clips to a contact in Hanoi, hoping to reveal them after the results were announced, he said.

During the time he worked at Doi Ngo he had vainly fought against school corruption, including cheating in exams, the teacher said.

So he had asked the students to help him get evidence to expose the corruption.

"In past years Bac Giang educational authorities reported high rates of students passing the graduation exam, which was embarrassing and not true. I want the provincial authorities to crack down on [wrongdoing]."

Shooting the messenger

Nguyen Duc Hien, director of the Bac Giang education department, turned his ire on the whistleblower.

Although he "appreciated" the student's exposure of corruption, he had flouted regulations by bringing a camera into the exam room, Hien said.

The province's examination steering committee would decide about how to deal with the violation, he said.

His department is waiting for instructions from the education ministry and provincial authorities on how to deal with the cheating students, he said, warning that the supervisors and examination committee at the school would be held responsible.

Bui Van Hai, chairman of the Bac Giang People's Committee, had a similar message. He made it clear that while the cheats would be severely punished, the whistleblower's "violation" would not be pardoned.

Assoc Prof Van Nhu Cuong, president of the Hanoi-based Luong The Vinh High School, said he did not agree with people who said "negative methods" cannot be used for whistle-blowing.

"Everyone knows that it is a traffic violation to ignore red lights. But if I ran a red light to chase a thief and retrieve a victim's properties, will the police fine me for the violation or thank me?"

Trinh Ngoc Thach, vice chairman of the National Assembly's Culture, Education and Youth Committee, agreed, saying while the student may have violated regulations, it was the supervisors' fault for letting him bring the camera into the exam room.

While it was true that there were other ways for him to expose the corruption, since the whole examination committee had been hand-in-glove, he surely would not have had the confidence to go to its leaders, he pointed out.

"I personally think the student was brave because he dared to record and reveal the clip though he knew he will probably be punished," he added.

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