New Delhi: Many students at institutes such as Delhi University (DU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are calling for the cancellation of the upcoming final exams, to be held online, citing the pressure of the ongoing pandemic.
If not this, they have sought concessions such as open-book exams or schedules that take into account the challenges faced by specially-abled students in accessing classes/tests via the virtual mode.
The common refrain underpinning the students’ demands is the impact the pandemic has had on their studies, especially on account of online classes. Students at AMU have also cited the spate of professor deaths in the second wave.
Earlier this month, higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) cancelled all offline exams scheduled for May. A review meeting will be held in June to chart out the course ahead.
Final exams for different courses at the three universities have either already begun or are scheduled for next month.
On 27 May, AMU students wrote letters to the Uttar Pradesh education minister, the UGC and the AMU Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor, demanding that exams either be waived or a proper schedule devised to account for the requirements of specially-abled students. The online mode of exams, they said, deprives the specially-abled of a level playing field.
“The examination schedule of the university is not stable enough to include everyone on equal terms,” the letter, accessed by ThePrint, reads.
“In this letter, you will find all the reasons about why the students are raising their voice to ‘waive off’ the examinations or implement a ‘proper schedule’ which is equally accessible by those who are specially abled,” it adds.
Speaking to ThePrint, an AMU student who didn’t wish to be named added that the pandemic has taken a mental toll. “About 30 professors in our college have passed away due to Covid. Numerous students are still struggling with the loss of their family members or the after-effects of the disease after testing positive. We are not in the right mind space to appear for exams right now.”
Students have said in the letter that they have submitted 30 assignments this year, adding that these can be used to assess their performance.
ThePrint reached Mansoor for a comment by calls and text messages but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
AMU Public Relations Officer (PRO) Omar Peerzada said the university is trying its best to deal with the Covid situation and is keeping the best interests of the students in mind. “While we do understand that these are testing times, we are bound by UGC guidelines and are doing our best to support students. AMU has started a tele-help desk where students can call and get whatever help they require,” he added.
JNU students wrote ‘over 100 letters’, wait for response
At JNU, students said the lack of access to online tools, coupled with the second wave, has made it difficult for them to prepare for exams. The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) says it has written over 100 letters to the administration over the past year, seeking the release of their research grants as well as help with course material, but there has been no response.
JNUSU member Qasim Masumi said “the lack of learning through the online medium has put students in a fix”.
“I am an MPhil scholar and I haven’t been able to submit my thesis so far. Over the past one year, the pandemic has made field work impossible. Not just this, some students are eligible for a research stipend. I haven’t been paid the sum since 2020,” he added.
Masumi, who is currently in his hometown Patna, said his situation had been made more challenging by Cyclone Yaas, which made landfall on India’s eastern coast this week.
“The cyclone has made things difficult. There is no electricity and the pandemic — along with this natural calamity — has put us in a state of distress. How can students write their exams during such a time?”
JNU examination incharge Jayant Tripathi refused to comment on the issue. “Since exams are being conducted at JNU currently, students have appeared for them and classes are ongoing. It will not be appropriate for me to comment on this issue,” he said.
DU students say syllabus not completed
At DU, students echo the claims made by their JNU peers.
“Although we are attending all our online classes, there is only so much that we can learn online. How do we take exams for subjects that require practicals? Science students haven’t stepped into labs for a year now,” said a second-year student who did not wish to be named. “The syllabus in most subjects has not been completely taught.”
Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) president Akshit Dahiya said they had submitted a memorandum to the Dean of Examinations on 24 May regarding students’ concerns.
“When we spoke to students, we found that second-year students preferred assignment-based evaluation and third-year students want an open-book exam with additional time for examination. The reason why they want the exam timing to be increased by half an hour is to ensure that they are able to submit their answer sheet online,” he added.
“We are also pushing for a portal to be created where coursework material is made available to students.”
DU registrar Vikas Gupta said the university is “conducting online examinations only for final semester, final-year students”.
“These exams will start from 7 June. We haven’t decided on how evaluation will be conducted for first- and second-year students.”
This report has been updated to correct an error in the spelling of JNUSU member Qasim Masumi’s name
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)