This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Amrit Mahapatra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

#StudentLivesMatter: Why UGC’s U-Turn On Examination Guidelines Must Be Called Out

More from Amrit Mahapatra

The University Grants Commission (UGC) revisited its earlier guidelines regarding the conduct of final term examinations. The examinations must be compulsorily conducted to “protect academic credibility and quality”, the revised guidelines said. At the same time, the Delhi University administration has also been under the scanner to conduct Open Book Examinations (OBE) despite reported multi-faceted failures in the same.

Both the decisions come in the background of India entering the league of top three worst-affected COVID-19 countries. The justifiability of a seemingly arbitrary order without due discussions with stakeholders is being debated among various sections of the citizenry.

The Delhi University administration has also been under the scanner to conduct Open Book Examinations (OBE) despite reported multi-faceted failures in the same/ Representational image.

One Plan Does Not Suit All: Why Exams Should Not Be Compulsory

Without a coherent action plan in place and volatile border situations, India seems to be dealing with a battered economy, rising COVID-19 cases, ill-equipped healthcare infrastructure as well as diplomatic skirmishes. Yet, the focus as it is evident, is on implementing a unilateral decision, putting thousands of students’ lives at stake, without caring about the on-ground situation.

The internet accessibility in India still has not been able to penetrate to the lowest rung. While it’s estimated India will have 650 million users by 2023, the number is about half of the total population that’s pegged to be around 1.3 billion. In areas with poor connectivity and frequent power cuts, it’s almost impossible to take online tests.

The DU boasts of an inclusive student base from throughout the country but it doesn’t seem to take into account the spectrum of problems that different sections might face.

To put things in perspective, the UT of Jammu & Kashmir still doesn’t have 4G connectivity speeds restored and students have to avail the 2G services. It would be a cruel and insensitive remark on the part of the authorities to expect students to take the examinations with the bandwidth that is not even feasible for a simple Google search.

The idea that one plan suits all is not only untenable for execution but also unbecoming of democratic processes.

Is Anyone Hearing The Marginalised Voices?

DU Students Protest Against Compulsory Exams
Planning of an entire examination without caring for how PwD students would access the tests shows the myopic vision of the government/Representational image

Apart from the systemic marginalization that physically disabled students face, the planning of an entire examination without caring for how PwD students would access the tests shows the myopic vision of the government. Even if scribes are provided, there is no guarantee that they won’t be virus carriers, especially at a time when apprehension regarding community transmission is at its peak.

Education is a subject on the concurrent list and following the conventions of federal democracy, the states should be rightly allowed to frame rules that fit the situation at hand. The UGC guidelines should be advisory and not mandatory, the Maharashtra government said, reiterating its stand that conducting examinations for more than 10 lakh students was infeasible.

Unfortunately, the entire process smacks of political vendetta and opportunism. At least five of the seven states that have cancelled their final term examinations – Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan are non-BJP ruled states. That student would become the pawns in a political game, risking their lives reflects the sorry state of affairs we are in.

Not that the technological and logistical front of the plan is watertight either. The portal reportedly kept on crashing during the mocks and the upper limit on the size of uploaded files was just 5MB, and an average answer sheet on scanning accounts to 30-35 MB. In such a situation, the students were expectedly confused but the teachers were in no better state either. This Twitter thread by the daughter of a teacher employed in DU describes the plight.

With the portal being faulty, there is no way the teachers can resolve queries regarding its failure. Furthermore, the Ad-Hoc teachers haven’t been given a letter a continuation that technically means they’re not on duty, she goes on to point out in the thread.

The list of issues seems to be endless with the students trying to voice them on various platforms.

Students Talk About The Difficulties, Confusion And Uncertainty Regarding Exams

“We had been mentally prepared that we would take the examinations but then the state government cancelled it and now that the UGC has changed its decision, we are confused.”

“The teachers are not trained in online pedagogy nor have we been provided with sufficient study material. In the three hours that we have been allotted, we are expected to log in, download the question paper, write the answers, scan the copy and upload it on the portal which is impossible”, a student of Gargi college said.

When the premier institute of the country is going through this, one can only imagine the plight of students enrolled in colleges, in remote areas. It is an open secret that government-run portals are not user-friendly, prone to crashes and face frequent server failures. The irony of putting the careers of students at stake to maintain academic credibility is probably an irony lost on the government.

A slew of confusing orders issued one after the other have also left the students feeling bitter.

 “We had been mentally prepared that we would take the examinations but then the state government cancelled it. So, we started preparing for entrances into Master’s programmes but now that the UGC has changed its decision, we are confused. Moreover, this will severely affect those living in remote locations and having no access to the internet. With private hostels disallowing students to stay, it would also be a problem equally if the examinations are conducted offline”, Stutee Sampriti, a student of the BJB College, Bhubaneswar said.

The problem of connectivity seems to be disproportionately affecting students in the rural belt in an adverse manner.

“I stay in a village that has poor connectivity and bandwidth. After the ravaging effects of the Cyclone Fani last year, almost all networks except a couple of major ones are largely inaccessible. Even if examinations are conducted offline, I would have to commute to the college in Bhubaneswar using a bus which is highly prone to being a carrier of virus”, Swikruti Mishra, a Sociology major and resident of Sakhigopal, Puri quipped.

The authorities don’t seem to be prepared for an offline examination either which the UGC has a provision for, as well. Last month, 32 students appearing for their SSC examinations in Karnataka tested positive for the virus, showing how vulnerable centres are.

Indeed, it seems the government has not taken into account intersectional issues of location, class and gender that are objective indicators in assessing the accessibility of any resource.

As the contagion seems to take a more aggressive turn each passing day, with the WHO acknowledging the possibility of it being airborne, we can only hope the government learns from its mistakes and doesn’t put the lives of students at stake. Students have been protesting online, with hashtags of “StudentLivesMatter” trending on Twitter.

Whether it does bring about a change or is ignored proactively is a question only time shall answer. For now, the situation seems grim and the authorities cannot seem to care less.

You must be to comment.

More from Amrit Mahapatra

Similar Posts

By Sahil Basu

By Author Anonymous

By BigChange

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below