Not Infected But Definitely Affected | Sitting for Online Exams During a Pandemic

While my mother worked 24/7 to help covid patients, arranging oxygen cylinders, Remdisivir doses, grieving for patients who couldn’t survive, the biggest worry in my mind was how to tackle the Land Acquisition Act or why I haven’t started studying even though my exam started in 10 days.

Covid was the only thing my parents spoke about for the last two months. My mother was involved in the relief work. I took care of the household chores and also did the little I could for my family’s debilitating mental health.

In between all this, I have never felt so numb and clueless about my studies. 

The plight of those who tested positive or lost their loved ones can never be expressed in words. The pain of frontline workers and volunteers working day and night to get that one oxygen cylinder, has traumatized them for life. Though I am beyond grateful that none of my family members were infected by covid, we were adversely affected by it and so were others.

In the midst of all this mess, students didn’t just have to worry about their ailing parents, or the depreciating mental health of their family. They had more important things to do because if they didn’t, the world would end. They had to give exams.

With both my parents testing covid positive and being home quarantined, what was tough for me during these examinations cannot be expressed fully in words. The mental and emotional pressure that I had to deal with, when on one side, I had to sit and prepare for my examinations and on the other I could see my parents suffer can never be expressed in words.” 

Shrija Verma

No matter what, our educational system believes that if you are a dedicated student you will find a way to balance your academics. The scene in the movie 3 Idiots explains the attitude very well when one student (Joy Lobo) could not concentrate and complete his project because his father had a heart stroke. And the principal (Virus) asks him whether he stopped eating, or bathing and if not then why did he stop studying. 

“Mein aapko sympathy de sakta hu par extension nahi ”, is what Virus said. 

But in real life, Universities failed to even give that sympathy, forget about the extension!

“Reading about how the students in various NLUs were shown no remorse and were ill treated and put through a grind even after they had suffered from extreme loss was heartbreaking. Our mental well is being discounted in this whole process of conducting exams, and colleges and professors should take some action in helping students with the same, and give them levy and extensions with their submissions if a student requests for it, the professors and colleges need to be empathetic to their students, now more than ever.”

Tanaya Sethi

 The real question is: do we really need to test the perseverance of students during this time?

“My experience while giving exams in this pandemic was not that good, though everyone got really good marks but it affected our mental health to an extent! Understanding that this time it’s not just a few families suffering but the whole nation is very important. Exams turned out to be a formality only, students were either occupied with household chores or some medical emergencies.”

Exams have never been about just passing for me and I work hard to score well. But this time, no matter how much I wanted to, no self talk or ted talk helped. I broke down a little, faced my anxiety, took ten mins to calm myself and started studying. That’s how my day started for the past three weeks. 

And I can’t even say that I just wish to score well, because it did not feel right to even wish for something so trivial when humanity is going through such tough times.

To be obedient and studious as a student has been my go to, but giving exams during the pandemic was a whole new ball game. One, I was totally not fond of.

Janvi Kapur

– Aditi Trivedi

For a majority of students examinations during the pandemic took a toll on their mental and emotional well being. And if not that, there is this other half which feels that for a subject like law, online examinations are a formality and even if they score well and were mentally content during this whole process, these exams are going to do no good to their career.

  “I’m very ambivalent about this online examination because most of the students including me gave this online examination without really understanding the concept, which as a law student I feel is not very helpful for our career. I don’t think these exams were fruitful at all, because we lack in-depth knowledge of our subjects. But again cannot just ignore the fact that there is a pandemic going on and with the high rise cases it would have been chaotic to take physical examination.”

Yash Tayde

While talking to one student about malpractices during online exams, there was a realisation of how during offline exams, the biggest worry of students was whether they will pass or fail. And with the advent of online examinations, the paradigm has shifted and now they worry more about whether while giving the exam, they’ll find the answers in the textbooks or not as that will actually determine their result. 

It is of course on students to refrain from malpractices during the exams, but strict preventive measures played an equally important role. There was a threat of action against malpractices but no measures to actually prevent them. 

It’s not about how badly you want a particular thing but rather how much hard work you are willing to put in. In these online examinations, the very essence of  exams has been completely lost,  mainly because students aren’t willing to prepare for these exams, as they are very well aware that they are bound to pass. It is not only hampering the understanding of concepts, or knowledge of the subjects, but also affecting their overall development as a student.”

Manuj P. Borkar

 “The notion of exams in the pandemic is a double edged sword- a great chance to improve the aggregate, as many students scored better in the online exams then they could have in the offline exams, but the credibility of such marks is a big question mark. Owing to the current situation, students like me were not at all motivated to study because passing the exam was not a concern. Common law is a subject which cannot and should not be tested on the anvil of such exams. However, what was/ is the ideal way for conducting exams in this challenging time is still an unsettled question!”

Ishaan Paranjape

 “Taking an online exam was a quirky experience as I faced a roller coaster ride of stress and ease as I dealt with software far from being efficient which just added to the anxiety but the ease of taking the exams at home felt comforting. Knowing that the assessment is to be done online, colleges could have explored a new array of interactive and genuine ways of assessing the knowledge of the students which could have yearned for better results for both the students and faculty.”

Vedant Tiwari

These experiences are not just of students from a particular college, rather a testament to the journeys of many  students from different backgrounds.

We as students have always been asked to stay calm during the preparations for examinations and even on the day of examination but this time the universities failed to show sensitivity towards the situation prevailing in the country. Students like me amidst watching their parents suffer, losing family members and parents were giving the examinations under situations that in no way can test their knowledge.

Shrija Verma

When we talk about education, it is no longer just about rote learning the whole syllabus and acing your exams. It is about having an impact, feeling relevant and equipped with the power to make amends. What is happening right now is nowhere near this. 

Yes, it is understandable that just like students those in charge have had their struggle too and devising a plan for alternative forms of examinations must have been difficult for them as well. But it is also high time that the educational system starts taking responsibility for the kind of impact they have on the lives of students. Since years, the institutions have been uptight about many important issues which somewhere must have affected them and the faculty too.

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Everything has changed and the educational system needs to acknowledge this change. All we ask from the universities is to at least see the plight of these students and make them feel that the place to which they give their all will understand where they are coming from. 

The very first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that there exists one. It’s time to take the blindfold off. It’s time to be better so that the spaces around us can be better. It’s time to actually implement what’s been there in the textbooks for years. If not, it’s time to change the textbooks too.

It’s time to actually show some empathy. 

Because if not now? If not, during a pandemic? Then when? 

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