Education September 21, 2020
Parliament session reduced due to Covid risk, but no such regard for TN disabled students
The Parliament session has been cut down due to the coronavirus risk, but that concern does not seem to extend to disabled private students in Tamil Nadu. Class 10 board exams will start as scheduled today after all attempts to get a stay on the decision have failed.
“Pray for us”. Joseph Sahayarajan sounds scared and anxious ahead of the start of the Class 10 board exams. His son Emmanuel Jacob is among the 1,413 disabled private students taking the exams which begin today. Board exams for all other students in Tamil Nadu have been cancelled due to the coronavirus risk. Private students, the bulk of whom are children with disabilities, though have not been extended the same consideration.
A review petition hearing on Sunday in the Madras High Court seeking a stay on the exams was unsuccessful. The petitioner, Balakrishnan Subramaniam, a parent to a child with disability, pointed out that while other boards like the CBSE and NIOS had said disabled students would not be able to safely write exams given the coronavirus risk and issued necessary directions, authorities in Tamil Nadu had failed to do so.
Board exams in TN begin today
The petition also highlighted the exemption granted to adults with disability by the Department of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel and Training in the context of the pandemic.
Given this, the state government should have formulated an alternative mechanism of evaluating students with disabilities instead of subjecting them to an exam which requires them to step out of their homes.
In these extraordinary times, solutions have to be found that minimises risk to vulnerable population like students with disabilities. – Balakrishnan Subramaniyan, Petitioner
When regular college students are given options to attend exams with minimal risk, the petition highlighted the unfairness of subjecting students with disabilities to the board exam. Instead it asked that they be allowed to write the exams from their homes.
However, the High Court refused a stay on these grounds. Instead it recorded the state government’s statement that all steps to meet the needs of disabled candidates have been made.
The court has also asked Vaishnavi Jayakumar of the Disability Rights Alliance India (DRAI) for a detailed status report to be filed on the issues affecting disabled candidates that arise during the exam. This includes detailed reports of students who are unable to write due to difficulties with scribes etc.
With this all doors seem to have closed for now for parents and the affected students with disabilities. The petition filed before the Supreme Court is yet to be heard and all hopes of a political intervention seem to be dim. There were some hopes after DMK leader Kanimozhi tweeted this on the issue last week.
“The Tamil Nadu government, which has allowed all 10th class students to pass the exams without examining them, is forcing “special children” and “alternatively abled” students to take exams during the Corona period. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu should immediately intervene and order the declaration of passage of “Special Children and Alternative Skills Children” without selection”, she said.
Board exams for disabled private students only
Many parents have refused to subject their children to the mandatory pre exam Covid test. Joseph’s son Emmanuel is among the few to take it. “All this has upset me a great deal and I suffered an attack of depression”, says Joseph, who lives in Tiruchirapalli. His brother and sister-in-law took Emmanuel for the Covid screening.
“Emmanuel was not keen on sitting for the exams and nor was I, but my family members insisted. The exam centre is 20-km from home and my wife, and I are taking him tomorrow. The Disability Commissioner has said that we should just attend the exam. There are many parents traveling much longer distances than we are. I don’t know why they agreed”, adds Joseph.