The Maharashtra government has taken a decision to hold the high school board examination (Class 10) from April 29 this year, following disruption of the school calendar owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exams are usually over by end of the March. However, the government’s decision has caused distress among the students, particularly those belonging to the marginalised classes, as they are not prepared for the exam.
NewsClick visited Gurukul School in Ambujwadi area of Malavani, Malad, one of the biggest slums of Mumbai. Students from the nearby slums used to attend this school, a majority of whom belong to the poorer sections. However, the school which was closed due to the pandemic-induced lockdown is yet to re-open, owing to Mumbai being one of the worst-hit cities in Maharashtra.
Neha Maurya is a student of Class 10 in Gurukul School and lives in a 10x10 jhuggi with her parents and younger sister. When NewsClick met Neha at her home, she was studying amid the din of the surrounding area. On being asked about her preparation for the board exams, she said, "I haven't studied well. There is so much noise around here. How can I study? We go to school to study because they are not congested like this and there is peace unlike here. But, this year, we haven't gone to school at all. So, whatever I am learning, is on my own and by attending online classes sometimes.”
While the government shifted to online classes following the pandemic, these classes have proved to be a near failure owing to a number of reasons. The foremost being access to technology for attending online classes.
Ayan Mansuri, who is also a student of Class 10 in Gurukul School, told NewsClick that he was unable to study till January this year as he did not have access to a smart phone. His father is a painter and had no work for almost six months.
Ayan has six members in his family. All of them live together. That is why it's difficult for Ayan to study at home. Schools are closed. So, there is a negative impact on his study. Also, online issues are there. In this backdrop, Ayan wants exams to be postponed. "I don't know whether exams will be postponed or not. But this is very important year for me. If I get more time to study, and especially some peace, I am sure to get good marks," he said.
Also read: MVA Government’s Push to Begin Online Classes Beset with a Series of Challenges
Ayan showed a resolve to pass the exams and said that he would prefer the exams being postponed as that would give him more time to prepare. “Otherwise we will be left behind. If I get more time, I can study well and get more marks," he said.
A similar story was narrated by Sita Jaiswal, mother of Sachin Jaiswal who is also a student of Class 10 in the same school. She runs a small shop selling tea and snacks, while her husband is a daily wage worker. They have three children, but could afford only one smartphone. She said that even though Sachin is a bright student, many times he failed to attend the online classes.
"There is so much noise here and the network is also not regular. Sachin had difficulty concentrating because he was studying from the same house that was used as a tea stall. He is studying from that tiny house but his mother is sure that he will get good marks. "He is good student but if he gets more time to study, we can see him doing well. I hope government will consider our position," said his mother.
In addition to the access to technology, students also find it difficult to concentrate on online classes. As per Kapil Patil, MLC in teachers constituency from Mumbai, only 50% students have been able to learn well during online classes. "I keep talking with teachers from all over state. To speak about Mumbai, my feedback is not that positive. In schools where students from poor sections comes, the attendance is much lower. Teachers also think that the students, those who attend the classes, do not pay full attention to the teaching," he told NewsClick.
NewsClick has earlier reported on the access to online education among the marginalised sections in the state and with the education year coming to an end, all these issues are set to affect the students, particularly those preparing for board exams. The worst sufferers of this will unsurprisingly be the students from the marginal sections.
Former Education Minister Ashish Shelar has proposed the state government three formulas. He said, "The state government should go for prelims, whether physical or online, which will give us an idea of preparation of students. If we come to notice that students have not been able to prepare well, we can postpone the exams by a few more weeks. The second point is counselling. We must do a counselling of students via their teachers. Thirdly, the government should request the board for a comparatively easier question paper."
Access to education is a basic right of children and the Congress party, which is part of the ruling MVA alliance, has been taking credit for bringing this act. Meanwhile, Varsha Gaikwad, education minister of state, who also represents Dharavi Assembly constituency, which is Asia's largest slum area. However, the state government seems to be apathetic to the burning issues of the students.