By Forcing Exams Amid Pandemic, UGC is Depriving the Deprived

An examination works as the last nail in the coffin with people struggling to pay their examination fees.

Published28 Jul 2020, 02:09 PM IST
4 min read

The University Grants Commission’s latest guidelines have ensured that the final year examinations of both undergraduate and postgraduate students will take place in the month of September.

This was coming for a long time despite the resistance of educators, university faculties and students. The need-blind, privileged outlook of the commission has left India shocked and perplexed at the same time.

Utterly homogenous in its idea of India, it has a reductionist approach to problems that not only disregard the diversity of class, gender, and sexuality but also, the health and security of the students.

The ‘UGC Revised Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities in view of COVID-l9 Pandemic’ is nothing but a prank pulled on a country which has a low per capita income.

Furthermore, the continuous lockdowns and stagnancy in economy has dug the grave of informal and private markets. With people struggling to provide for themselves, the examination works as the last nail in the coffin with people struggling to pay their fees, visit their universities back, and resettling in the cities again.

UGC’s Decision Insensitive, Amateurish

Despite news of a student taking her own life for not being able to attend online classes, UGC seems to have negligible regards to the psychological health of the students. Even surveys carried out at different universities prove the incapability of Indian students to withstand an online exam.

According to a survey conducted by DUTA and DU Express (Delhi University), more than half of the students were not able to attend online classes due to various technical glitches and for being placed low on the chain of economical hierarchy.

So, if an online examination has to take place truly, what will happen to those students? If that’s the verdict of the capital, what will happen to the states with less literacy and income?

UGC has also suggested for a ‘blended mode’ if the universities are incapable to pulling off an online examination. To my understanding, blended means a mixture of offline and online examinations.

Offline examination during COVID-19 outbreak is an insensitive decision which will exponentially increase the number of cases leaving the State in a scarcity of staff, infrastructure and medication.

Also, many states like Assam have turned universities into quarantine centres to deal with the pandemic, so what will happen to those centres? Or is the UGC assuming that COVID-19 will drop suddenly to zero patients per day?

With already over 12 lakh cases, and continuous warnings from experts, it seems amateurish of an institution of UGC’s stature to take a decision that will make the entire country vulnerable to the disease.

While US Varsities Pushed Back, India Caved-In

This decision also needs to be critiqued and resisted unconditionally because of the inability of many institutions to hold systemic lectures online, and of students to attend them.

Without finishing the course-work, it looks like a herculean task to score good grades in examination. When I say so, I am thinking of the last student that can be affected by one decision that the authority takes. And I guess, it is how a democracy should curate policies.

The same anti-student policies are common to all the populist governments. For instance, in the US, the Trump government changed the immigration policy for international students to force the universities to reopen the campuses. However, the difference between Indian universities and US universities was the way they reacted to the orders of the government.

Indian universities mostly abided by the new guidelines without questioning the feasibility and its consequences, whereas US universities knocked the doors of court and sued the government for their myopic policy making.

This decision of ‘othering’ the weak, economically backward section has also exposed the hoax of uniformity that the government supports. In their view, it seems, uniformity means assuming there is no difference and discrimination in the society and all enjoy the same starting point.

However, it should have been uniformity of voices and consideration while drafting a decision that will be enforced on the citizens. The committee should have taken into consideration the plea of the marginalised sections who have no exposure to internet or have been devastated by the economic recession.

Like always, it didn’t, and we shouldn’t blame them. People were never taught compassion and coexistence in schools for them to know how to perform it.

With that I hope that sanity prevails, and the people in organisational and institutional committees fight to revoke the decision for a greater good, for the health of the students and the society as a whole. For the people to support the government and its decision, the government should too work for the people, and not against them.

(Sutputra Radheye is a poet and commentator. He writes about cultural and political issues. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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