Days after schools shut down, worries surface about Class 10 & 12 preliminary exams
MUMBAI: Barely had Dhruvi Patel, 16, started attending offline classes since the first week of October than the Maharashtra state government recently decided to shut down in-person classes, pushing schools and junior colleges once again into online mode and leaving students like Patel in a lurch. Patel has attended school online for nearly 17 out of the past 19 months and had just begun enjoying her time back in the classroom.
Patel, a Class 10 student of St Paul’s Convent, Dadar east, said, “Since I was in Class 9 in 2020, most of our assignments and exams were conducted online which hampered our writing habits. In the last two months, we were slowly getting back to it and looking forward to the preliminary exams but now our school is not sure if physical exams can be held.”
Schools that were shut down in March 2020 were reopened for offline teaching for Classes 5 to 12 in rural areas and Classes 8 to 12 in urban areas on October 4, 2021. In December, the state school education minister also announced the dates for SSC (Class 10) and HSC (Class 12) board exams to be held over March and April this year in physical mode.
However, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the city and state has forced the school education department to shut down offline learning for all Classes except 10 and 12. “Most students have only now started submitting writing assignments and in order to prepare them for the board exam, they need to be able to write two-and-a-half-hour papers. Therefore, the preliminary exam is important,” said the principal of a Vile Parle school.
Since Monday, several colleges in the city have started offline preliminary exams for their Class 12 students, especially since Class 12 exams are scheduled to begin with oral exams from February 14. This move however has invited flak from students and parents.
Chitra Sharda, mother of a Class 12 student of Mithibai College, questioned, “At least 12 students in my son’s batch have tested positive for Covid in the last one week and several others are complaining of Covid symptoms at present. The college is insistent on in-person exams because the government notification says they are allowed. Why are our children to put up with the risk of physical classes while all other batches have been moved to the online mode?”
Many schools and junior colleges are currently feeling helpless as more and more staff is contracting the virus. “Our preliminary exams are scheduled from January 17 and we don’t have enough staff at present to conduct physical exams. Students are on study leave so we plan to wait and watch for another week before taking a call on the exams,” said Rupa Roy, principal, Balmohan Vidyamandir, Dadar. She added that their last resort will be to hold preliminary exams online where students will have to submit answer sheets online. “We had done this in 2021 and might do it again. The health and safety of staff and students is of the utmost importance to us so we won’t do anything to jeopardise the same,” she added.
Rajesh Pandya, vice-president of the Teachers Democratic Front (TDF) said that their organisation has approached the state education department for a clarification on preliminary exams. “We are requesting the authorities to release a notification stating that no physical exams will be held at a time when the state and city are recording a high number of Covid cases. With no official notification in place, schools are forcing teachers to attend physical school, endangering the lives of teachers and their respective families,” said Pandya.