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Sandeep Sahu

The misgivings are understandable. For one thing, there is no clarity yet on how exactly the six lakh odd Class X students, all set to sit for their annual Board of Secondary Education (BSE) examinations in less than two weeks’ time, would be assessed, now that the Board exams have been scrapped for this year. For another, any formula – whether based on the performance of the students in the four pre board exams conducted or in their Class IX exams or both or an altogether new yardstick – adopted is bound to leave the brightest and the sincerest of the lot, who had put their heart and soul for months into preparing for what is considered the ‘most important’ exam of a student’s career, at a disadvantage. There is a basis to the apprehensions expressed by students, parents and academics alike that no matter what criteria are adopted, it would give an unfair advantage to the laggards.

There is little doubt that this is not an ideal state of affairs. The students, who have had a harrowing time due to the Covid 19 pandemic for a year now, are now set to spend sleepless nights for several weeks – maybe months – more wondering about their future career. My heart goes out to them – and, of course, their equally hassled guardians – in these uncertain times. But was there really an option before the government other than cancelling the board exams? I am afraid the answer to this loaded question has to be an unambiguous and emphatic ‘No’!

Consider this. If the evidence of the last one month or so is anything to go by, the ongoing ‘second wave’ of the pandemic is spreading much faster – and wider – than the first last year. The number of new positive cases, which stood at 394 on April 1, has jumped over 15-fold in three weeks flat to reach 6164 on Thursday. To put things in greater perspective, the rise has been a staggering 1232-fold if we move the base date back to March 5! By all accounts, the graph is set to rise even more steeply in the days and weeks ahead. Last year’s peak, reached on September 26, 2020, has already been breached and we are nowhere near this season’s peak yet. For all one knows, we could be peaking just at time when the BSE exams were set to begin: on May 3!

Imagine the situation if the government had decided to go ahead with the Class X exams as scheduled. Over six lakh students – and several thousand more teachers and officials – would have been trooping in and out of thousands of exam centres for several days, creating in the process just the kind of situation the dreaded virus loves – and needs to spread faster. At a time when even adults are refusing to adhere to Covid appropriate behavoiur, it is unrealistic to expect teenagers to stick scrupulously to Covid protocols. As it is, the smooth conduct of the BSE exams itself is a huge responsibility for the teachers and Board officials involved. Entrusting them with the onerous additional responsibility of ensuring that all six lakh students obey the Covid guidelines strictly would have imposed an unbearable burden on them. Given all these factors, schools were in serious danger of turning into ‘super hotspots’ even if 95% of the students followed the Covid 19 guidelines. After all, all its takes for a room full of students to get infected is just one positive case in the room!

The disquiet among the students and their parents over the cancellation of the Class X exams has a sound basis. But considering all the pros and cons, the cure would have been worse than the disease itself if the government had decided to go ahead with the exams as scheduled. For every parent who is now cribbing about ‘objective criteria’, there would be 100 screaming their tongues out calling for cancellation of the exams. The people would have beaten the living daylights out of the government if even one student died of Covid while appearing for the exams.

There was simply no way all concerns could have been addressed and workable solutions found for all problems foreseen. Given the imponderables, any decision, one way or the other, was bound to leave some people dissatisfied, cribbing and fuming. But there can hardly be any argument over the fact that the life and well-being of the young has to take precedence over any other concern. And hence, cancelling the exams was the only viable option.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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