The failure of all 25,000 candidates in the admission exam for a Liberian university has provoked bafflement, consternation and debate, with some convinced that flaws in the education system have been brutally exposed.
The results mean there will be no first-year students at the University of Liberia, west Africa's oldest degree-granting institution, when the academic year begins next month.
Officials said applicants lacked enthusiasm and did not have a basic grasp of English. Spokesman Momodu Getaweh told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the university would not be swayed by emotion. "In English, the mechanics of the language, they didn't know anything about it."
Liberia was devastated by a bloody civil war in the 1990s and the rule of president Charles Taylor, but Getaweh said the country was running out of excuses. "The war has ended 10 years ago now."
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf admits the education system is in need of reform. But this is the first time that every student who took the exam, which entails payment of a US$25 fee, failed.
The Voice of America (VOA) said the university had hired private consultant James Dorbor Jallah to manage this year's entrance exam.
He told the VOA: "There is a perception in our society largely that once you take the University of Liberia admission exam, if you do not pay money to someone, or if you do not have appropriate connections, you would not be placed on the results list. So, the university has been grappling with how they could manage the process whereby people's abilities would be truly measured on the basis of their performance in the examination.
"This is a clarion call that we need to all see that the king is moving around naked and not pretend as though the emperor has his finest clothes on."
Etmonia David-Tarpeh, the national education minister, had doubts about the mass failure, and intends to meet university staff. She told the BBC: "It's like mass murder."