Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

A day after the Odisha government announced to conduct the UG-PG exams in offline mode, several students have expressed concern and raised demands to keep the online option open amid the fears of a possible 3rd Covid wave owing to the fresh Omicron scare.

The State Higher Education Department on Wednesday announced to conduct all UG and PG level examinations (annual/semester) in Universities and Colleges in offline mode. The announcement was made through letters to the vice-chancellors of all State universities and principals of all government/ non-government degree colleges. 

However, the anxiety among the students is mounting owing to the possible threats of the 3rd wave amid the rising concerns for the Omicron variant. Several candidates who are likely to appear for the exams have demanded to make arrangements for conducting online exams. 

"Offline exams are effective for us. But, as Omicron is rapidly spreading its tentacles across the country, it has sent fears among us to appear the exams physically at a time when the scare for Omicron is high. It is essential to keep an alternative option available to tackle the situation," said Kamalakanta Parida, a student. 

Meanwhile, some other students have welcomed the Board's decision of conducting offline exams.

"Though there are several advantages of online exams, the disadvantages can't be ignored. Conducting exams online will increase dishonest practices. Students will score suitable marks as per their preparations if the exams are held offline," said Swikruti Mishra, another student.

There are over 1, 000 Degree Colleges across the State and of those, 14 Universities are under the Higher Education department where lakhs of students have enrolled for higher studies. 

The possibilities of 3rd wave can't be ruled out with the rising threats of the new COVID variant- Omicron. All are in a state of confusion over the preparatory measures of the State government to tackle the possible onslaught. The government might have to face immense challenges while ensuring the conduct of COVID infection-free exams.

However, vice-chancellors of the universities have expressed confidence that there will be no trouble in conducting the exams in offline mode as physical classes are running in full swing. 

"Performance of the students will be good in offline exam mode in comparison to online. The exams will be conducted with COVID protocols in place. Vaccination status of the students will be verified and social distancing between the candidates will be in place in the exam halls," said Professor Sabita Acharya, Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University.

Similarly, Rajendra University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ramabalabh Mohapatra said, "As physical classes have already commenced, there will be no problem in conducting the exams. Conducting offline exams is the best option. Currently, no case of Omicron has been reported in the State. It won't be fair to close physical classes with the anticipation of Omicron scare." 

It is pertinent to mention here that the UGC has notified that the decision of finalising the mode of conducting the exams is up to the Universities and Colleges. 

However, after the detection of Omicron infected cases in the neighbouring states (Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal), students have raised concern over conducting the exams in the event Omicron hits Odisha.