Anxious parents, lack of clarity mark start of class 10 exams for TN’s disabled students
Class 10 board exams for students in private schools started off in Tamil Nadu on Monday. An estimated 1,200 disabled students appeared for the exams. Many candidates had to travel nearly 50-60 kilometres to the exam centres. While some centres had adequate number of scribes, there were reports of some students not being alllotted one at the exam centres.
K*’s son A* is among the 1,200 disabled students to appear for the Class 10 board exams that began in Tamil Nadu on Monday. These exams are being held only for students in private schools in the state, the bulk of them being children with disabilities.
A, who is 17 years old, has mild autism, and his mother was anxious about whether he would be allowed to sit for the exams as he had not undergone a Covid test.
“The exam centre is over 20-km away from our home and we were unsure whether A would be allowed to take the exam since he had not taken the Covid test. Fortunately, he was not stopped”, she says.
However, she like the parents of other candidates, was not allowed to accompany her son inside the centre.
Parents made to wait outside
“They wouldn’t let us in to see where the children would be sitting. We were told to go home or visit a temple. There was no question of going back home given the distance”, says K, who is based on Coimbatore. A used the services of a scribe for the exam, but she has no idea whether the scribe had been tested for Covid.
We waited outside in the rain for over three hours until the exam was over. They could have assigned a room inside where parents could have waited. When we objected to this, they told us rather callously to go visit a temple. How can they be so casually dismissive given the coronavirus risk? – K, Parent of disabled child
L*’s son, who has mental retardation (MR), did not take the pre-exam Covid test. “The main issue was that they did not let the parents inside. At least they allowed his class teacher inside which was a relief, but it is unfair that parents must wait outside for over three hours”.
Not everyone was unhappy with the arrangements made. Parvathi Ravichandran, a teacher at the WVS Special School in Coimbatore, found the education department authorities ‘helpful’. “The exam centre is at our school and the education department was cooperative. There are more than enough scribes and all the children took the pre exam Covid test as arrangements were made to test them at the doorstep. Going ahead, it would be a good move to put children from special schools in the same campus”.
However at many exam centres, students found there were no scribes available. There were two confirmed cases, one from Salem and the other at Kanchipuram, where scribes failed to turn up.
Many parents stay away
Many parents have chosen not to take the risk at all. Among them is Malathi Balakrishnan, whose husband S Balakrishnan, moved the Madras High Court seeking a stay on the state government’s decision to hold the exams.
“My son Vignesh’s exam centre is 15 kms away and there is no way I am going to take the risk of sending him so far during the pandemic”, says Malathi. Her son has cerebral palsy and needs the help of a scribe, “Vignesh is everything for us and we are extremely careful about his health. If the exam centre had been in his school, we would have sent him”.
Lack of clarity and a sense of frustration seems to be the overwhelming moos among the parents at the end of the first exam. More needs to be done to reassure the parents, believes Sathish Kumar from Ektha, which along with Disability Rights Alliance India (DRAI), has been advocating for the parents and disabled candidates. “Like it would be good if parents were at least allowed inside the centre and authorities ensure that scribes are put through the Covid test”.
*Names of some parents and children have not been revealed as per their request.
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