2020 showed us how everything could go wrong, all at once. From a virus bringing the entire world to a standstill, to floods, cyclones, and two superpowers almost ready for a third world war. This year has shaken us all. Still, however uncertain times may be, the show must go on. The brunt of this disruption disguised as a virus was borne by everyone. From migrant laborers to corporate giants, nobody was spared from having their work and life come to an unsolicited halt. Nevertheless, in the hierarchy of the most to least affected, we tend to overlook the biggest stakeholders-the students.
In the wake of the pandemic, when every function of human life shifted to the digital space, the education system suffered the most. Not only were most colleges ill-equipped with the infrastructure to upload course modules online, but it was also important to take into account several student’s availabilities and exposure to the internet, all of which was conveniently overlooked. In these tough times, our students have become unsung warriors being pushed into a mayhem, involuntarily, and it doesn’t seem like their plight will end anytime soon.
In a general setting, it would be safe to assume that the government would work for the well-being of its public and not against it. However, instead of being sensitive to the problems being faced by students, the centre is abusing its power and making a mockery out of its system. Students at all levels are being harassed. For the final year students, it started with the uncertainty looming over the holding of their end semester exams. The Centre’s insistence, based on new University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, that final year examinations in all universities and institutions ‘MIGHT’ take place amidst the COVID pandemic truly portrays the helpless state of affairs our students are dealing with.
The month-long tussle between UGC and SC affected students the most as there was no consensus on whether it’ll happen or not. On account of it happening, students were to expose themselves to the virus by traveling to their respective colleges, from the safety of their homes, where they were forced to go back when the colleges had shut down in March, due to the lockdown. At the time of such an emergency, the supreme court is only delaying the hearings, putting students through a lot of mental anxiety and stress. Many states are still under lockdown and railway services are also not available. however, these seem like trivial matters to the centre, which concerns itself only with matters of utmost importance. The supreme court has the time to take up Suo moto cognizance of a contempt case against senior advocate Prashant Bhushan and Twitter India, but not the time to listen to a petition regarding the final year exams, which concerns students from around 818 universities. Its either a statement to let everybody know that the apex body does not care about its students, or, that its priorities only revolve around itself.
This issue, is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only the final year students, but the upcoming first year is also caught up in a similar whirlwind. The batch of 2020, which passed out of school this year has seen more hardships than any other batch. It was this batch which back in 2017 faced the board system, in 10th class, for the first time after the CCE pattern in CBSE Board was scrapped, and now to act as the cherry on top, they were exposed to this pandemic. The uncertainties for this batch started much before the pandemic though. In February 2020, due to communal violence in North East Delhi, a lot of students of the CBSE board were not even able to attempt their board exams. Not only that, but the papers which were expected to be held later were scrapped in May due to the virus. These students, after working hard the entire year, never even got the chance to prove their potential and braved the ramifications of whatever the system had in store for them. The ironic thing is, not being able to write the most important exam in an Indian school student’s life was not even the worst thing to have happened to them.
What is considered far worse, is the untimely postponement of competitive exams. It’s like, almost reaching the finishing line but realizing it’s a mirage, and you still have miles to go. Engineering and medical exams which collectively have more than 10 lakh aspirants, have already been postponed twice. Law entrances like CLAT and AILET have been postponed 4 times. If this is not the true test of an aspirant’s dedication and patience, I don’t know what is.
The exam schedule has suddenly turned into some sort of “Agni pariksha” that no student consented to, but is still being forced into. there is so much uncertainty in everything, yet students are expected to maintain their demeanour and continue studying like nothing is wrong. These truly are the test of the times. Some institutions and states even went ahead with holding exams amidst the pandemic. The biggest example of why that should not happen is the- Karnataka state SSLC exam. The students were assured that social distancing measures and proper precautions would be taken, but to no avail. Videos of the exam centres went viral and no concept of social distancing was observed.
The biggest question which arises after looking at such examples is, that why are students being made to choose between their future and their health? In case a student gets affected due to exposure to other students in the exam hall, he poses the threat of acting as an agent and transmitting the virus to his entire family. In such a risky venture, students giving centre-based exams is not advisable.
Nevertheless, we are not learning from our mistakes. As of today, COMEDK is scheduled for August 19. It’s the first of its kind nationwide centre-based exam. Hopefully, good sense shall prevail and maybe this time we’ll get to see proper safety measures in place. If so, is the case, it shall set a precedent for proper conduct of further exams and give a much-sought relief to JEE and NEET aspirants who are set to write their respective exams in the first two weeks of September.