The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many sectors and the education industry is the worst hit as schools and colleges have remained shut during the entire lockdown period and continue to do so, stalling the exams and admission process. There have been strict regulations by the state governments regarding how academics are handled amid the pandemic.
Some schools and colleges have opted for online classes and exams owing to the safety of students' health. Many students have even returned to their natives due to this as living in PGs and hostels have proven risky in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, graduate students of St Joesph's College in Bengaluru received circulars asking them to come down for offline exams. This, naturally, has them worried and concerned for their safety among other issues such as incomplete syllabus and lack of preparation.
IBTimes has received numerous complaints from students of St Joseph's College in Bengaluru, sharing concerns over health risks, staying in PGs for the course of exams, incomplete syllabus and not to mention having to travel from other states.
"I'm from Jharkhand and I left my PG a few months back, so I'd have to find temporary accommodations and arrange for food too (safe food which is difficult because pandemic?). Also, our syllabus isn't complete yet. And our exams start from 20th. Which gives us exactly 20 days to find a place, study the whole syllabus - 7 months of syllabus, because mid sems were MCQ, so this is going to be exactly the opposite. Everything is crammed up within a very short period of time; like we didn't even get a 1-month notice which we rightly deserved. And I'm not even talking about the health risks. For people coming from outside as well as people staying there, they have a risk to infect their family members. I'm not even against the exam it's just that we didn't get enough time to worry about everything else and study too," a B.Com third semester student at St Joseph's told IBTimes on the condition of anonymity.
I am student at St Joseph's college, and since I'm not from Bangalore, it is very difficult for me to find accommodation. I don't trust the safety of PG or any other hostels, because no one would know if anyone has contracted the virus, and travelling to college is another difficulty, and I really don't think the end semester exams are worth risking our lives and it's hugely disappointing that the college thinks so," another student at St Joseph's told us.
IBTimes spoke to tens of students who shared similar concerns about the offline exams.
"There are around 73 students in my class. Most of our class students are from outside Karnataka. Around 20 students are from Bangalore rest all are from different states and countries," said a third-semester student from Tamil Nadu.
Some students were willing to write the exams if conducted offline, but the university has given the option of either attending the exam now or at a later date.
"According to the government rules colleges should give an option to appear to college offline or to attend classes/exams online but our college didn't give any option as such. But they just said we can opt to write the exams later but who knows when the situation will get better and when we'll be able to write it later," said another student, who added that some students who requested the management to change the mode of exam were asked to take the exam at a later date.
A financial toll on students, parents
Students who are traveling from other states also highlighted the risks and the costs involved, which is dearer due to the pandemic. One student had to travel back from her native last month as the college was set to open but never did.
I came to Bangalore early to sit quarantine for two weeks as per WHO norms. I come from my native and there was no bus or train and my parents have work and hence I had to use flight. On 30th of September, ie hours before college was set to open, they gave notice of not opening. After waiting two weeks in Bangalore and after getting reassurance and promise from college staff that exams will be online and college would not open, I came back to my native in mid-October. If they had not told me they wouldn't open, I would have never come back. I have a lot of health issues; allergies, constant body and shoulder pain, frequent fevers etc. I had to get tested both times as per government rules. The two tickets, cost of living, other taxi costs, pre-order of medicines and everything costed me more than 15k," said another student at St Joseph's.
"St Joseph's is mentally and financially draining us," the student added.
Another student said she had to pay Rs 16,000 to the hostel for the lockdown months and now having to spare at least Rs 15,000 for traveling, accommodation, tests, etc for just 5 exams is "atrocious and cruel at times like this," said a Science student studying at St Joseph's.
St Joseph's administration not 'forcing' students
IBTimes reached out to St Joseph's College administration for a statement on the matter. The spokesperson said the students are not being forced to come down for offline exams. Rather, they have the option of giving the exam now or at a later date. As per government rules, the college has mandated parents' consent before attending the exams.
In the month of September, a Google form was sent to all the students of 3rd and 5th semester UG and 3rd semester PG to indicate if they wish to take the examinations on campus in November '20 or subsequently when the situation is favorable to students especially for those who are away from Bangalore. There is no change in what was stated earlier except that the examination will be followed by practical sessions. However, if any student does not wish to write the examination on campus and attend practical sessions, they can still contact their respective mentors by email and inform about the same on or before 5 November '20," the college administration shared the notice that was sent to all students with IBTimes.
Furthermore, a letter of undertaking was also shared with students, which needs to be signed in case they choose to take the exams at a later date. Some students raised concerns over the fact that students are required to pay additional fees for taking the exams at a later date.
Regarding another major concern raised by the students that spoke to IBTimes about the syllabus, the spokesperson said that the college's Grievances Committee hasn't received a single complaint about not completing the syllabus.
Note: If you're a student of St Joseph's College in Bengaluru sharing the same concerns, please send your complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will be protected.