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5 Reasons Why DU’s Decision To Hold Open Book Exams Is A Terrible Idea

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Open Book Exams (OBEs) begin for DU’s 2 lakh final year students today. The OBEs have been widely opposed by students and teachers, with many citing that it makes no sense. What is even more baffling is that second-year students will be graded on their assignments and not have to sit through these exams. The reasoning for making third years sit these exams, which are a logistical and mental nightmare for many students after the destruction of the second wave of the pandemic is flawed, to say the least.

Messages like this and constant crashes of the website were extremely prevalent during both rounds of OBE in 2020.

According to Delhi University, the reasoning for third years to have OBE is so that their future is not affected as they have their final grades when applying for employment or higher studies. While this reasoning seems acceptable at first glance, one needs to ask how does this stop the University from using Assignment based grading for final years? The fact that fifth-semester results are still not out for many students while they start their 6th-semester exams is also questionable.

Here are 5 reasons why DU has made a terrible decision by conducting OBEs.

Logistical Flaws In The Exam Portal

DU has held OBEs twice before, once in the summer and once in the winter of 2020. Both times, there were many issues with the OBE portal that were not resolved. From students not being able to log in, not being able to download their paper when the exam started, and not submitting their paper when the exam ended. Factor all of these in with constant crashes and you will begin to understand the OBE experience for many DU students.

Some papers were not even prepared, and DU uploaded PDfs of handwritten question papers, old question papers, or papers from different subjects entirely.

Students Were At The Forefront Of COVID Volunteering In The Second Wave

Many students, including final years, were volunteering online or offline to collate, deliver, and source resources during the second wave of the pandemic while the government was busy campaigning in West Bengal. These students who have already gone through a lot are now being made to write exams in such an extraordinary situation.

Priya, a third-year student from DU speaks about the grief volunteering had inflicted on them. They say “On the most difficult days, I used to make at least 150-200 calls to hospitals, oxygen cylinder suppliers, remdesivir suppliers, etc. It was usually disappointing as no one would pick up or most of the times they were unable to help due to a lack of resources. It was draining as hell. I and others had to turn off our brains and help people even if we were losing patients daily. We were so furious at the government since they had around 14 months to work on some infrastructure, but they chose not to do anything. When I heard the news of the passing away of a young professor’s husband, I cried endlessly for hours. It was not only that I was worried about the professor and her children, but now it seemed that the shared grief of all the people had a face and that was my professor’s face.”

For them, OBE is “‘jale pe namak (salt on the wound)’. It’s brutal in every sense. The assumption that third-year students have not gone through difficult times if not hell, is absolutely infuriating.

“It’s my third semester online. I used to be a bright student earlier and now I’m forced to look for shortcuts. I cannot study at all. Sure I’ve read many books, but the ability to focus and then make notes and then use my brain in a ‘normal’ way seems bizarre.

Ateen, a third-year student from Kirori Mal College, says, “Volunteering was terrifying, people were begging for resources that weren’t there and by the time we could arrange something it was too late. Having to deal with the impact of both this and personal grief caused by the pandemic, has been made especially difficult in the face of OBEs, which were already anti-student in that they re-enforced a digital divide and were incredibly inaccessible. Sometimes it feels like the DU Admin does cruel things to purposefully hurt students, honestly.”

Saniya Nautiyal, a third-year student from Sri Venkateshwara College, points out, “My frame of mind right now is that I’m incredibly stressed out about so many things. I thought I would be helping at least a few people by volunteering, but it just made me feel more helpless because there were absolutely no resources left anywhere, most hospitals weren’t picking up, people were dying within minutes of reaching out, unable to get the required help. Then began the whole black marketing deal which further brought our volunteering into question. A couple of students got calls from the police telling them to shut down all volunteering and so eventually we had to.”

 “Because of the threats and also because there were simply no resources left anywhere. It was a terrible situation. Distressing. So many people lost their loved ones. All of my friends lost someone or the other. I had covid during last semester’s OBE, my father had to be hospitalised, we were all sick and stressed and when I informed my college’s admin and asked if there was any provision for covid positive students from DU, they said you can skip the exam, we’ll mark you absent and you’ll just have to take then next year. So basically, no provisions.

 The Entire Point Of Examinations Is Lost

Ruchita Sharma, a third-year student from DU, when asked about the futility of OBE exams, had this to say, “I mean going into exams seems just to be an obligation now, there is no interest and that actually crosses out the whole point of examinations. the whole country is suffering and many of whom are families and friends of students, it’s rather Thoughtless, unconcerned and insensitive behaviour from institutions that are going through with any form of examinations at the moment. To be putting pressure at the moment, while a whole lot of students go through so much stress.

They point out that third-year students tried to get OBEs cancelled last year and did so this year too, without avail. This is just how “DU works” and they have “exhausted their voices” asking for anything less than apathy from the University Administration.

What makes this even more stressful is the fact that DU has increased the number of questions to attempt for many subjects from 3 to 4 in the online format. Last semester, we had to attempt 3 essays out of 6 for our subject. This time they’re saying it’ll be 4 out of 6 as if they’re rubbing it in our faces.

 OBE is a joke, they should’ve just taken assignments and marked us on them like they’re doing it for every other year. The exam itself means nothing, literally, all anyone’s doing is copying answers. It’s just unnecessary, meaningless labour. It doesn’t test our intellect in any way or form,” Saniya Nautiyal points out.

Delhi university

Delhi University has displayed remarkable apathy with its conduct of Open Book Examinations.

Connectivity And Privilege

In a country where less than 50% of people have access to the internet, asking students in a University where people from all over the country attempt an exclusionary format of examinations is just furthering the divide. Many students do not have the basic resources to attempt these exams, and these include a quiet place in their home where they can concentrate on their exams in solitude.

We Went Through The Worst COVID Wave In The World

At this time, there is nearly no student in the university who hasn’t lost a loved one to COVID, and asking them to sit for exams or delay their graduation is simply inhumane. For DU, their flawed reasoning of OBE helping students further only applies to a very small privileged minority who will be able to give these exams without mental and logistical pressures.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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