The Exam Fever

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Students who somehow reached home during the pandemic are being asked by their universities to return and appear in examinations. This too at a time when Coronavirus cases in the country are soaring, reports Khalid Bashir Gura

The routine scene in a Srinagar hotel where the female students who flew home during the pandemic are in mandatory quarantine. KL Image: Syed Samreen

As the lockdown is being eased, the students of Jammu and Kashmir who are studying in universities in other parts of the country or abroad are in a dilemma as the varsities have asked them to return to campuses, appear for examinations, and pay fees. This all amidst pandemic and the soaring cases of Coronavirus in the country.

On their part, the students are demanding mass promotions on the assessments of their previous examinations or delay in examinations till the pandemic flattens its curve.

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 25, to contain the spread of Covid-19, several educational institutions within Jammu and Kashmir and outside have switched to an online mode of education. While the government has described this as a positive shift, and compensation for conventional classes, people across the region have voiced concerns on social media that the students from the poor families and those living in rural areas where internet access is an issue are finding it difficult to access education.

The second flight carrying stranded students from Bangladesh to reach Srinagar today

“We are being told to come, retrieve belongings at the hostels that we may need for examinations and leave only to return again when examinations conclude,” said Arif Ahmed, 22, a law student at Jammu University, who is currently in Himachal Pradesh. “The university is saying that exams will be conducted conventionally and not online”.

Ahmed is worried about accommodation and the Coronavirus as he has to travel back and then return as the university hostels are still closed.

When Coronavirus pandemic marked its presence in India, Ahmed like many of his friends had not imagined the lockdown will prolong.

“I have all the books, notes and documents at the hostel. I left the hostel on March 15, ten days before lockdown. We thought lockdown will not last long and so had kept everything at the hostel.”

Students in the queue to board a train at Bangalore. KL Image

Another student from Baramulla, who is a doctor and pursuing MD at Chandigarh narrates her painful ordeal beginning with her evacuation from the hostel in March and returning home amidst pandemic. She is currently attending on her father suffering from multiple diseases but now is being asked by the University to return and appear for examinations because the lockdown has been eased.

Insha (name changed) is studying at Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma University of Health Sciences Rohtak, Haryana, and had to book her tickets immediately as the lockdown was eased and air traffic resumed.

“I used to live with my family in Haryana before Coronavirus but we had to return home because of the pandemic. Now I am travelling back to the campus for examinations,” she said.

Making the parting comments, students in Kaahmir share their experience and urge people to stay home. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Talking on the phone, the Public Relations Officer of Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma University said, the exams are commencing within a couple of days and students who think they can’t appear should apply through proper procedure. “They can redress their grievances through the proper official procedure, talk to concerned deans and then only we can take the decision,” he said “As of now they have to appear for exams. The lockdown has been eased and students should have no problem in appearing for exams”.

Another student, Azhar Ahmed Najar, who is pursuing BTech (civil engineering) at Desh Bhagat University, Punjab, says that he is a regular student from Kishtwar.

Najar had to return home on March 18. The new semester had begun on February 28 but due to pandemic and lockdown, they could not complete the syllabus. Once back home he was expecting classes to resume on zoom, which to their surprise did not happen.

“How are we supposed to learn, study engineering via WhatsApp PDF, online video lectures?  Besides that internet access remains a problem,” Najar said, insisting the students were not able to properly download pictures, PDF, given the limited speed of the internet in the region. “The classes were mentally agonizing for us. We could not focus on studies”.

Over 470 Stranded Kashmiri Students Leave Madhya Pradesh For  J&K In Buses

Questioning the online mode of education Ahmed said the complex numerical can’t be understood on WhatsApp and different people have different understanding levels for which it is essential to have face to face interactions with a teacher in class or virtually.

Pramod Mandal, Controller of Examinations, Desh Bhagat University, said: “The University has not compelled students especially from Jammu and Kashmir to appear for online examinations as they are aware of the limited access and low-speed internet of the place.” The university, he said, has asked students to appear for examinations in offline mode once the situation is normal and they can come back to university. “We conducted examinations to save and compensate for the lost time during the pandemic. The virus is here to stay but we have to move on”. The director said there will be no mass promotion and students will have to appear in exams sooner or later.

About Author

A Mass Communication and Journalism postgraduate from the University of Kashmir, Khalid is a writer by choice and a journalist by chance.

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