SFI Protests Against Online Examinations at MHRD

On 27th July 2020, members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) protested against the issue of online examinations in front of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

On Monday, 27th July 2020, members of the student wing of the Communist Party of India- SFI protested against the issue of online examinations in front of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The student body of SFI wrote a letter to Human Resource’s minister Ramesh Pokhriyal. They demanded immediate cancellation of all exams due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. This demand was placed in the context of how repeated protests from students all across the country had still not deterred the UGC and MHRD from going ahead and announcing their decision to conduct online examinations.

According to the letter, this was “not just an exclusionary program, but a program that caters to a minuscule class of privileged minority.” This argument was substantiated by Dainik Jagran’s report on the mock tests conducted by Delhi University (DU) recently- and how only about 1.1 lakh students out of the total 2 lakh students were able to register online for the same.

The pandemic has impacted a lot of people psychologically as well. This unforeseen situation has resulted in mental breakdowns, and in such a state, writing exams can be really difficult.

The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have sort of broken the normalcy and what is expected of reality for a lot of students. It has thrown them off guard and put them into a world of unpredictability. This is more than what most people can cope with. As an activist, I’ve personally witnessed students going into cycles of mental breakdowns and suicidal ideations, with some even attempting to do the latter. It is a heartbreaking situation, but one that the administration and the central government seems to be oblivious to.

Varkey Parakkal, student of Delhi School of Economics and State Committee Member of SFI Delhi State

Another issue that has been raised in the letter to the Ministry of Human Resources and Development, is the trend of privatization in DU. It cited how the New Education Policy of 2019 and the decreasing share of the budget for public education, points towards an elitism in DU. Keeping this in mind, the Online OBE, which will further divide students between the ones who can access technology and the who can’t, might be a blow to the public education structure.

Instead of conducting final semester exams, the SFI demands an immediate evaluation based on an aggregate of previous semesters. They have also asked an option for the students to give a supplementary exam, in case they want to improve their grades when campuses reopen.

Delhi University is continuously neglecting the concerns raised by students. The authorities have no idea about the lack of infrastructural facilities. The issue is even being considered by the court. Various students and organizations have approached the court, with concerns about the discriminatory nature of the Online OBE.

Akhil K M, student of Law Faculty and the State Committee member of SFI

SFI Delhi has also tried contacting Amit Khare, who is currently serving as the secretary for the MHRD. But he refused to meet them, citing the reason that this case about online OBE is ongoing in court. There has been no scope for deliberation and discussion on this from MHRD’s side. SFI’s previous memorandums got no response as well, thus the students had to risk their safety and come out on the streets to protest against this.

The students gathered around the MHRD office carried banners that said, “No to Online Exams, Promote all Students Without Exams”. The letter was signed by organizations including SFI, KYS, and AISA among others.

The fate of Online OBEs is still unknown. As international universities like Cambridge close in on their dates for submissions of final grades for their applicants, DU must provide students with marks as fast as possible.

 A bunch of disenchanted students is the last thing a university administration can deal with during a pandemic, so they must act as efficiently as possible. They must encourage discussions and debates with students, realizing that they are important stakeholders in the process.

Feature Image Credits: SFI
Saanjh Shekhar