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May 21, 2020

'Unjust and Unfair': DU Students Reject Online Semester Exams

Internet connectivity is abysmal in most parts, 4G services have been cut in Kashmir, and there aren't enough resources available to all.

Delhi University is a Central university with a diverse student body from all across the nation. More than 10,000 students attend college annually, leaving behind their homes, with the hope of building a secure future for themselves. However, COVID-19 has slowed down the education system owing to a nationwide lockdown that appears to have no real end in sight.

The mandatory online classes have compounded the problem as it excludes numerous students from remote areas as well as small towns and cities. Internet connectivity is abysmal in most parts, 4G services have been cut in Kashmir, and there aren’t enough resources available to all.

And now, the university has decided to hold online exams without taking into account the various hurdles of writing exams away from college.

Power cuts and insufficient study material

We are all familiar with power cuts. Even those living in Delhi and other metropolitan cities have frequently experienced it.

If such is the case in Delhi, imagine living in a small town in Uttarakhand or in any other place with no proper electricity. The decision to conduct online exams is totally uncalled for as it excludes a majority of students from these areas, with limited bandwidth and internet connection.

Most students are aware of the time it takes for the university’s servers to display the results. Now, imagine uploading a scanned copy of your answer paper on these same server.

Moreover, a lot of outstation students went back home in a frenzy with only a few belongings. They do not have their study material and books for even an open book examination.

‘Unjust and inequitable’

Sakshi Sitesh, a former student of Indraprastha College, shares her experience with the university servers and the unequal access to internet connection among students.

“It’s unfair on DU’s part to assume that everyone has a laptop and a functional internet connection. Some parts of the country don’t have 4G internet service, and we shouldn’t forget that a lot of DU students are currently living there. Plus, DU servers have been a nightmare while downloading admit cards and mark sheets all through the six semesters of under-graduation.”

The exam preparation, she says, is also not easy when you have to solely rely on online study materials since the available papers and books are only limited.

“Adding to the inadequate IT infrastructure of the university itself, to assume that one can do their research on their phone is a gross underestimation of how difficult it is to read academic papers and books on phone. This is assuming that there’s a constant and stable internet connection, which also is an overestimation when almost everything has been moved online, thereby burdening the internet spectrum,” she added.

Also read: Why Online Examinations Make For Unfair Testing

Aanya Wig, a student at Lady Shriram College, agrees that the online exams are “exclusionary” for students who come from diverse regions and backgrounds.

“…It would be callous for the university to assume that everyone has a stable internet connection, resources to study and also the mental space to give exams,” she said. She says that there are so many alternatives like internal assessments or an accumulative CGPA of previous semesters and asks why the university, so hell-bent on taking exams, when it is unfair and unjust.

Mental health crisis

The lockdown has also taken a toll on students’ mental health in more ways than one. The post-lockdown world isn’t going to be easy – with zero safety nets and with unemployment rates at a 40-year-high. More so, dealing with deadlines is a major hassle during a pandemic not seen in a hundred years.

Online zoom classes are exploitative in a sense that students don’t get to experience the holistic classroom and college. Also, why is the fee structure same as before when students are not using college’s resources such as electricity, water etc. The fee of a lot of courses in DU were increased last year to as much as Rs 1 lakh, which is clearly antithetical to the fee structure of a public university.

More so, the students rejecting online exams shouldn’t be perceived as a means to dodge studies. A lot of students have been continuously studying in this semester – from writing internal assessment tests and assignments to maintaining mandatory attendance.

There are so many other ways to solve the issue of passing students this year. Maybe the university can consider past grade points, practical marks and internal assessment scores to evaluate students’ performances.

Saumya Rastogi is a 22-year-old journalism student, hoping to present the truth to the audience, when censorship and ownership is seizing the media’s legitimacy and authority. She is an avid reader who likes psychology and philosophy, seeking the deepest oceans of the mind, and finding the meaning of life. 

Featured image credit: Marcello Graciolli/Flickr

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