Students in Kazakhstan have long dreamed up inventive ways to rig their scores at the make-or-break nationwide university entrance exam each year. But this year is the first that cross-dressing has featured as a cheating tactic.
To help his girlfriend make the grade, student Ayan Zhardemov came up with an elaborate plan to impersonate her and take the exam in her place this week, reports Tengri News.
He no doubt felt he had a good chance of doing well, since he had already passed the exam (known as ENT) three years ago himself, to enter the prestigious Kazakh British Technical University in the commercial capital of Almaty, where he is a chemical engineering student.
Zhardemov went to some pains for his audacious bid, taking a journey of nearly 1,000 kilometers from Almaty to southern Kazakhstan, near the border with Uzbekistan, to cheat for his girlfriend.
He donned a long black wig, a gray skirt, a white T-shirt, and white sandals, completing his look with a touch of eye makeup and some pink lipstick.
Unfortunately for him, his efforts did not convince invigilators: They got wise to the con and called the police, who presented Zhardemov with fraud charges that could lead to a short prison term, a fine, or community work.
“Our university’s professors are ready to afford him not only financial but also moral support. He is an extraordinary student,” said Rinat Iskakov, the dean of KBTU’s chemical engineering faculty, without a word of condemnation for the alleged cheat.
“Human justice is purely individual, and everyone can understand it in their own way” Iskakov continued, waxing philosophical. “Although there is the law."
There has been an outpouring of sympathy in Kazakhstan for Zhardemov, who is being supported by many on social networks as a romantic hero rather than a cheat and a lawbreaker.
Cheating at the annual university entrance exam is something of a national pastime. Sending an impersonator to take the test (either for money or as a favor) is a popular method, although candidates usually enlist someone of the same sex.
Other methods include taking concealed crib notes or electronic devices into the exam room, although few students go to the lengths of one high school senior in 2012 who typed out a crib sheet that stretched to an astonishing 11 meters and contained 25,000 answers. Still, he got caught.
That same year, a girl was foiled trying to take her exam with a telephone concealed in a beehive hairdo. That roused invigilators’ suspicions since the style was some six decades out of date.
So concerned have education authorities become about the scale of cheating that they now have officers from Kazakhstan’s intelligence service checking entry to exam rooms. But some students just will not be deterred.