Strange as it may sound, the examinations for up to higher secondary level, as announced by the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education are to commence from the next week. The decision to continue with the exams has been taken despite the fact that students have continued to boycott schools and colleges in Kashmir after the August 5 announcement, which removed the special constitutional status granted to Jammu and Kashmir.
Since the government announced the schedule for the examination “a mysterious fire” has reduced two schools to ashes in South Kashmir. Apart from the improvement in the movement of private vehicles at some places, the shutdown has remained uninterrupted for the last eighty days with internet services down, shops and other commercial establishments closed and public transport off the roads.
Even though the government had announced the opening of schools and colleges in the first month of the lockdown, students failed to show up. The decision to conduct examination in “an atmosphere of fear and unpredictability” has led to the belief that students are being used as cannon fodder to project a false sense of normalcy.
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While the students are blaming the authorities for politicising the examinations, their parents are living in fear for their children’s lives. “The situation is tense and unpredictable. Anything can happen. We are scared to sit in exams. They are using us for their benefit,” Hadi, a student of 12th standard told NewsClick.
Apart from the security issue, Hadi said, other problems including lack of internet facilities and public transport are a cause for worry. He added, “We are facing a lot of problems in the absence of internet. We can read from the internet, clear doubts and even revise easily. The second thing is that public transport is still off the roads. How can we reach the examination centre?,” he asked. He equally concerned about the incomplete syllabus. “We have completed only 60% of our syllabus. The government should think practically and at least reduce the syllabus,” he said.
Echoing him, Riyaan Firdous, a 10th standard student told NewsClick that the “atmosphere is not conducive” for the examinations and “students are not mentally prepared for it”. He, too, is worried about the incomplete syllabus. He said, “The authorities should at least reduce the syllabus as tenth class is an important examination. Our future depends on our performance in 10th class.” He added, “The schools just handed over the study material to us and left everything else to us. They did not teach us anything or clear our doubts. I had to attend tuition classes to clear my doubts.”
As per the figures of the Board of School Education, 1.6 lakh students are to appear in the upcoming examinations at 1,502 centres. Class 10th examinations will start from October 29 in which 65,000 candidates are to appear at 413 centres, while class 12th exams will commence from October 30 in which 48,000 students are to appear at 633 centres. Exams for class 11th would be held from November 10 in which 47,000 candidates will appear at 456 centres.
Students are not the only ones facing a dilemma, parents are equally worried. “They could have deferred the exams by one or two months. They are playing politics over the issue. We fear for their lives but we have no other option. The authorities are forcing the students to appear in examinations. If students refuse to sit in exams, it can cost them a year,” Rasool, a parent told a local daily Excelsior.
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While the police have asserted that they would ensure an environment of security, it is believed that deployment of security forces around the examination centres would only intensify the students’ fear. “We are not for the harassment of the children but we will certainly support them so that nobody tries to install fear in them. We all want the examinations to take place smoothly and where need arises police are there to help them,” Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh, told reporters on October 23 in Srinagar. He added, “The examinations are in the interests of the students, in the interest of parents of the students. We want to tell the children that they should not waste their year and request them to reach the venues of their examinations.”
But, the possibility of a return to normalcy by the examination day seems a distant hope for the students, who continue to live in fear.
The author is an independent journalist. The views are personal.