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‘Gateway Error 404’: DU’s Mock Exams Were A Failed Experiment

While this terminology ‘gateway timeout’ indicates that the server, while acting as a gateway, did not get a response in time (terminology being frequently seen while attempting to deal with Delhi University website) similar is the situation of Delhi University students who are not getting any response from the administration even after repeated calls and plea for the cancellation of Open Book Examination for final year students.

Examinations are a crucial part of any education system but exams are not the only part of the overall education system. The present scenario of Covid-19 pandemic has compelled us to rethink about the existence of an individual but here we are fighting for a cause as basic as Right to Education and equality of opportunity!

The decision of conducting online open book examination in Delhi University has somehow proved this university to be extremely exclusionary and elitist in its approach apart from being negligent and indifferent towards the grievances of the student community.

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Education is every student’s right, and it is totally understandable that normal classes were impossible in this situation of the pandemic, so the university resorted to online lectures, but it has all been a futile exercise since the overall attendance was very low due to huge digital divide across the country so in this situation where the majority of the students are not even able to attend online classes due to lack of internet facility.

They have no study material at hand and the university expects students to understand academic texts and also give exams in some magical world! It is very sad to hear that the University that prouds itself of its 100-year-old existence is making such inhumane policies with respect to student’s future.

Although there is huge opposition from students and teachers, the university has decided to hold exams for its final year students. The very first day of Delhi University’s mock online open-book exams saw many complaints from hundreds of final-year students. While some faced issues in registering, others were extremely worried when they were allotted incorrect question papers, also it became difficult to upload answer sheets as most of the time the website displayed ‘gateway timeout’.

A Case Of Insufficient Time, Not Receiving OTP, No Helplines For Assistance

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The insufficient time given to PWD (persons with disabilities) students is extremely worrisome. Several PWD student complained that while they were supposed to be given five hours to attempt the paper but as soon as they downloaded the question paper, the three-hour timer began.

Where there is a huge expectation from central university to be inclusive in its approach and respond to the students’ concerns the administration has completely turned a deaf ear to the problems.

Others complained of problems like not receiving the OTP to login to the website, some complained of the portal displaying ‘invalid, record not found’. Another complaint was related to uploading and submitting the answer sheet files, particularly due to the upper limit of 5 MB per file.

DU provided a common facility centre for people without online resources in their notifications but several students residing in different states complained that the facility centre in charge says that they have not been provided with any such message from the Delhi University which puts forward the claim that there is lack of effective implementation and coordination for the conduction of the exams.

Apart from that, not even a single helpline number has been provided for the student of School of Open Learning (SOL) by the University. While all this is happening, Dean of Examinations Vinay Gupta has simply brushed off the allegations denying that there had been any major problems. Keeping into consideration the ongoing pandemic, Delhi University examinations has created a lot of pressure and havoc among students.

This is a time when students are extremely anxious about their futures and are feeling helpless and the university administration instead of solving the problems has resorted to such kind of examination which is extremely exclusionary and can destroy the future of most of the disadvantaged students. The whole Open book examination is going to be held without any prior preparation with students not having books and readings to prepare for the exams, many students do not even have laptop or android phone, many come from a rural background where internet cafe is not accessible.

Considering all these issues, the university administration should have provided at least some relief to the final year students but what is being seen is that they are adamant on conducting these extremely torturous examinations at the time of the pandemic.

We Need To Acknowledge The Lack Of ICT Literacy

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The university should understand that students are in no way denying the fact that exams are necessary for proper evaluation, but evaluation should be fair to each and every student of the university.

While, globally, schools in New York and the United States prepared for online learning by distributing gadgets to their students, ensuring they had access to learning materials, what has our university done for the students? Declared the OBE exam which is a total fiasco?

I really don’t understand why is this formality taking place! Does the DU administration really think that conducting exams in such a manner would reap out any net benefit to the students? Or is it the institutionalized norm that has deeply perpetuated in a way that the officials in administration only have a conformist approach to follow? Whatever be the reasons, the university simply cannot ignore the fact that students and teachers are an important part of the university.

While the university is turning deaf ears to both the communities who have been actively opposing this type of superfluous examination, the major question is who is the university listening to, if not us?

As a matter of fact, many central universities are going in for evaluating students on the basis of their previous examination. Projects and assignment-based assessment mechanisms can be a better alternative. Recently, Visva Bharati University cancelled the exams of final year students. Students would be promoted on the basis of average marks of best two-semester and project work.

One really needs to acknowledge that the higher education system in India continues to suffer due to inadequate access to technology and inequity,. ICT  literacy is an important prerequisite for any kind of professional career. The higher education system faces challenge of transformation of curriculum, teaching and learning process to enable students to effectively function in this dynamic, information-rich and continuously changing environment.

The systematic integration of ICT literacy in the university curriculum is not a process that will happen overnight then how does the university expect to conduct such discriminatory examinations?

The larger question here is why is the university so adamant on conducting examinations?

Why is it that even after so many solutions provided by several student organisation, the university is negligent? What are the core values that university should abide by in any case(today being of a pandemic), in the future course of time?

But let’s not forget that we, as a part of the student community, have always stood against any injustice that has taken place against any student, and this time it is extremely necessary to unite and stand against this exclusionary system. Teachers and several student organisations are already putting so much effort, but let’s try for one more time, let’s come in solidarity for one more time, and fight against the unjustifiable system of open-book examinations.

It is the time for all the students and organisations of Delhi University to come together to fight against the injustice that is going to happen in few days in the form of Open Book Examination because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.                                                                                                                           

Created by Pallavi Raj

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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