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'Health Over Exams': Why NEET-JEE Exams Should Be Postponed?

Anubha Shrivastava Sahai
24 Aug 2020 5:04 AM GMT
Health Over Exams: Why NEET-JEE Exams Should Be Postponed?
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We have been receiving complaints from across India from parents and students for conducting JEE AND NEET University Exams in September during this pandemic situation when the cases are rising daily and due to lack of medical facility citizens are not getting proper treatment and even beds in Hospital.

WHO has also acknowledged emerging evidence on airborne spread of COVID -19 which is a very serious concern and will spread very fast in a public place.

Parents are very worried as cases are rising and proper medical facility is also not available so they are very stressed as to how to visit the examination center during such situation for appearing for the exam. The situation is very alarming and getting worse day by day and any such decision will put life of lakhs of students under risk .

In containment zone and non-containment zone also it is not possible practically to conduct exams with the rising COVID-19 cases.

Students will be under a lot of stress during the exam and will be mentally and physically harassed.

The recent MHA Guidelines dt 31/07/2020 also has suggested to keep the educational institutions shut till 31st August and there is no clarity if the exams are going to be conducted or not.

In this situation of COVID -19 , it is not a feasible option for students to sit and give exams (there are some reports that the virus is even airborne)

Many of the students have returned to their hometowns in different states,so travelling back to the states to give exams would not only endanger their lives, but their parents lives too.

Non-availability of safe public transports to get to the examination halls - not everyone can afford to rent a cab to give the exams daily . Right now students are safe as they are at home. The moment they will be exposed, chances of getting an infection are very high due to Covid 19 being airborne.

It is to be asked as to who will take responsibility if anything happens to any student as parents will have to run from pillar to post to get the children treated in the Hospital.

The SC has also taken suo moto cognizance and issued notice to some states seeking status report of Hospital Infrastructure. So students in these states will suffer due to overburdened medical infrastructure if anything happens to them. Moreover, Indian Railways has also issued a notification for suspension of central railways and travelling in public transport will be very risky for these students.

Students are mentally and physically not prepared for these exams.

 SOME OF THE ISSUES STUDENTS ARE FACING

The student community have a say in the matters concerning them.

The following concerns the same about the demands of students appearing for JEE and NEET, 2020:

Well, first of all we want to make our stand clear-

None of us wants a cancellation of exam. What we are demanding is a postponement in this unprecedented time so as to avoid any loss in any form be it life or career.

  • Now that cancellation vs. postponement is clear, let's get to the demands and details of JEE and NEET students.

  1. As of now, the JEE-MAIN is scheduled to be conducted from 1-6 September, NEET on 13th September and JEE-Advanced on 27th September.
  2. The exams were indeed postponed in JULY when the new aforementioned dates were announced, keeping in mind the Covid-19 situation prevalent in the country at that time.

The above graph clearly shows the scary exponential growth of Covid-19 new infections in India. At the time of announcement of postponement, the new cases reported were around 22k-23k daily. However, since then, the situation has only got worse and now we are in a phase when the daily reported cases have well breached the 55k mark. As on 1st August, the new cases reported are 57,486. In this situation, amidst such a drastic increase in the number of covid 19 infections, it is absolutely wrong to conduct a national level exam which have an enormous amount of candidates appearing for it.

  1. The number of students appearing for JEE and NEET combined is huge. With almost 10 Lakh appearing for JEE and almost 16 lakh appearing for NEET, a combined total of about 25lakh+ candidates are to appear for these exams. Now, since these exams are the gateway to premiere institutes in INDIA, parents are equally worried, and as usual, parents will accompany their ward to the exam Centre. Even If we consider1 parent per aspirant, that adds on to about 25 lakh more people, all going out the same time, anxious about their wards, with absolutely nothing in mind but their ward's wellbeing. The crowd will be huge and naturally social distancing norms will take a backseat, especially with the amount of stress and anxiety the parents and the aspirants will be going through.
  2. The exams were first scheduled to be in the month of April, when the cases were unimaginably less compared to the cases today. The government postponed the exam at that time keeping the health risks in mind. Similarly, the authorities postponed the JULY dates of the citing the lockdown in several states and the then existing pandemic situation of the country, and we are really thankful to the authorities for that. But now, the situation has changed for the worse and there's an even more health risk, an even more big of a reason to postpone the exams.

  1. There are even more convincing evidences of the virus being airborne now and conducting an exam of such a magnitude will only result in a disaster.
  2. JEE and NEET are national level exams conducted throughout the country. Naturally, the number of personnel required will be huge and more the people, more the feast for the virus.
  3. The transportation facilities throughout the country are on hold. The Railways remain closed and public transports are either very less or not accessible at all. Additionally, public transport pose even more risk of contracting the virus because of the number of interactions one would have with the public.
  4. The number of exam centres are far less than required. Due to the virus, the social distancing norms will have to be followed inside the centres. This makes things tricky as one would need a lot more centres for an exam of such magnitude to be successfully conducted. JEE Main is an online exam. It is quite difficult to increase the number of exam centers as the infrastructure for online conduct of exam is not that good in the country. Moreover, there are only a few exam centers in any states. For example, the state of Bihar has only 7centers for JEE Main. With such a huge number of students, is it really possible to maintain social distancing in just 7centers? (From there over 1 Lakh candidate appear for this exam). For NEET, it's even worse. There are centres in only 2 districts.
  5. Even if we hypothetically consider that the social distancing norms will be followed inside the centres, what about the equivalent number of the crowd outside them? Some states conducted the exams despite opposition and we got to see how social distancing norms took a backseat and people were not even wearing masks.
  6. Any type of SOP put forth will look good and convincing on paper only. On the ground, such protocols are highly unrealistic and we have seen examples of that.
  7. Inside the exam centres, there are several complications too. Like the use of same thumbprint scanner, same seats for face verification, crowded computer rooms, less distance between fixed- unmovable seats, limited number of computers etc. Yes, in some places they might be managed somehow, but in most others, they can't be. Add on that the fact that you'll be asked to wait for the Washrooms to be vacant even if you have emergency and are already under stress for losing time in exam. The anxiety and risks will be insane.
  8. There are many students who would've to travel several 100 kilometres in order to reach their exam centre. With such a long journey on cards, there's an almost impeccable chance that they will indeed contact the virus. Unknowingly thy will act as carriers and will create a chain that could lead to a disaster.
  9. There will certainly be many students who would've tested +ve just days before the exam. In such a scenario, it will be a risk to let them attempt the exam with others. At the same time, the careers of these students can and should not be compromised.
  10. Such students will definitely not be in the correct state of mind to attempt the exam. With soaring temperatures and body aches, how do we expect them to give their 100% for an exam they prepared for 2 years?
  11. Some students will definitely be in containment zones and as per the containment zone guidelines, strict lockdown measures have to be implemented in those areas regardless of the person concerned. So if you are allowing a student, who might be a covid +ve patient, and diluting the guidelines of containment zones, what's the point of having any in the first place?
  12. Most of the students will have grandparents and infants/children in their homes. In most homes, it is impossible to maintain social distancing inside the house that way you are basically exposing even more people to a health risk should a student contact the virus during the examination process and returning home.
  13. Asymptomatic patients have been a major concern for the world throughout this pandemic. How will the authorities deal with them?
  14. The bad performances due to fear and virus may lead students to drastic steps, even suicide.
  15. Is the government ready to take responsibility of many mishaps and take complete responsibility for the medical care of not only students but others they pose a risk to too?
  16. Other major events like the IPL and the political events, the court hearings and the school/colleges all remain closed due to the fear of virus. We students of these exams are not immune to this and we should not be exposed to health risk of such drastic magnitude.
  17. The IITs have proposed the plan of ODD semester year and hence proposed that the new session can start from January, 2021. Then, what's the hurry to conduct the exams in such a worsening environment?
  18. Many states have shown their inability to conduct the exam amidst this situation and their advices cannot and should not be ignored.
  19. When students will be called in batches, the first batch will have to report very early. For them, the examination is no more of 3 hours but of 5-6 hours with masks and gloves on.
  20. There are no accommodation arrangements for parents. They will have to be constantly exposed to the risk of contracting the virus while simultaneously being anxious about their wards
  21. Not everyone can afford private transportation cost for hundreds of kilometers. Such students and guardians will have to face unnecessary problems, which can easily be avoided should the exams be delayed to another date when the situation will be better and conducive
  22. There are many students with preexisting ailments like asthma. How are they supposed to wear masks for such long hours? Additionally, students with ailments like diabetes are also exposed to far greater risk of life. How can these be tackled?
  23. The dispersal after the exams are always very crowded and hence dangerous. You can't certainly contain a crowd of such young students anxious to talk about their performance after the exam. What SOP will deal with this?
  24. The exam conducting personnel may themselves be asymptomatic. In that case, it will be a huge risk.
  25. Many parts of India are suffering from major floods. States like Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal are facing additional crisis. In this situation, how are the students supposed to give the exam with a healthy state of mind? Can they even appear for it with no transportation, no electricity, and no internet?
  26. Health should always have to be the first priority. What's the use of a rank card when you can't cherish it?
  27. Additionally, most of the schools, colleges, medical centers, grounds, banquet halls etc. have already been converted and are being used actively as quarantine and health centers for patients. How are they supposed to be utilized if they are actively in use for fight against this pandemic?
  28. Thermal scanners can be very easy to escape. If someone takes antipyretics (E.g. calpol or paracetamol) just before the exam, their body temperature will decrease to normal levels and hence that student can very easily escape the thermal scanning.
  29. In the SOP it was mentioned that if someone has high temperature, then that person will be shifted to a new room. This procedure will put a mental pressure on the students. They will spend the whole time thinking that they might be covid positive (as they will get scared). This will seriously hamper their performance.
  30. If someone from JEE Main gets covid positive (after giving exam) then how will that student can give NDA,NEET, JEE Advanced, BITSAT, NEST and other entrance exams? He cant give his 100% . Many students are droppers who have wasted many years. This can lead to "psychological trauma "
  31. CBSE Exams were cancelled, CA and IAS exams are postponed till December and very recently, two law exams were postponed (BAR and AILET) even though there are far less students compared to NEET and JEE. Then why is NEET and JEE not being postponed till December?
  32. Most of the centers are in containment zone so it will be difficult to conduct exams in these centers and in future more centers will come under containment zone so lot of students will not be able to appear for exam. We would like to know how many CENTRES have been increased to accommodate students as per the guidelines. As per the recent MHA GUIDELINES dt 29/07/2020 all the educational institutions across India are closed till 31st August so there is lot of uncertainty if the same will be extended further or not and how will they decide and plan once the admit card will be issued

We saw quite a few exams being conducted amidst this pandemic and the results were a disaster (as expected). Following are some visuals that will explain why we students have been right all along:







 




The above pictures are just a few examples of the ground reality SOP in exams, namely SSLC, RBSE, KCET, IIITH-UGEE,KEAM

Following are the media reports showing how these exams were not at all successful:



 






The above reports clearly indicate how the mishaps deliberately resulted in disaster when the simply could've been avoided, had the authorities been not adamant to conduct the exams while the situation was worsening.

CONCLUSION

The students demand two things:

  1. The authorities listen to the just demand of students and postpone JEE and NEET to a later date post-September when it is safe to conduct the exams. Prioritise HEALTH OVER EXAMS.
  2. The authorities bridge the communication gap between the students and them. They come out and establish a decent communication with students so that students are not misled and not end up wasting their time and efforts.

I therefore request the Govt on behalf of Parents and students to kindly review the current situation in the interest of lakhs of students from across India before the admit cards are issued so that students can plan accordingly

I would request MHA also to give clarity if the exams are going to be conducted or not as the same has not been clarified in their recent Notification dt 31/07/2020 as there is an emerging evidence on airborne spread of COVID 19 as acknowledged by WHO and also Community spread as told by IMA.

I would also request HRD minister to discuss with all the concerned authorities NTA JEE NEET for conducting Exams

I request the Govt to not conduct Exam during such pandemic situation and postpone it till the situation is normal Saving life of students is more important right now .

 Anubha Shrivastava Sahai is an advocate and child-rights activists, and also the President of India Wide Parents Association. She tweets @anubha1812

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