Days after the government of Tamil Nadu announced that the public exams for Class 10 will be conducted from June 15, the Madras High Court has directed the government to respond to a batch of petitions that sought the exams to be postponed.
The group of petitions included those filed by social worker R Murugappan and former Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University V Vasanthi Devi seeking a level-playing field for the students belonging to the deprived classes such as tribal, Scheduled classes, rural and other backward classes children. Hearing these petitions on Tuesday, a bench consisting of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice Anitha Sumanth ordered the state government to file a response to the petitions by June 11.
In his petition, Murugappan, who is also the State Programme Coordinator of the Dalit Human Rights Monitoring Unit of Social Awareness Society for Youth, an NGO said that the present schedule of Class 10 board exams jeopardised the lives of the students from the disadvantaged sections of the society. The exams, which were originally scheduled to take place from March 27, were postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 lockdown. It was then announced that the exams will be conducted from June 1. After much outrage, the School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan announced that the exams will be held from June 15 to June 25.
â€śDue to the complete lockdown resulting in the stopping of bus transportation in the entire district, these students studying in government and government-aided schools have no possible ways of reaching their schools and exam centres on time,â€ť the petition said. It also added students in the remote corners of the state have problems with bus transport even on normal days and that their situation will be made worse in the coming days due to the restrictions. The petition also mentioned that many students in the district stay in containment zones, which makes it more difficult for them to reach the exam centres to appear for the public exam.
Explaining that conducting exams as per the present schedule will encourage students to drop out of schools, Murugappan said that there is no way for students to receive their hall tickets for the exams in the present scenario.
Pointing at the role teachers play in preparing the students to face the exams, Murugappan said that the delay in conducting exams, especially after a long period of absence from schools will have a detrimental effect on the performance of the students. â€śAfter over 85 days of lockdown, when the students are made to write the exams on the 86th day and the mental state of any student will be affected and they will not be able to write their exams properly as they would have done under normal circumstances,â€ť he said.
Urging the court to consider directing the state government to conduct exams once the situation in Tamil Nadu returns to normal, the petitioner also said that it would be easier for the students to revise the syllabus before the exams. â€śAfter the school reopens and when the students would get back to their classes it would be easier for the students to refresh, revise and adequately prepare for their exams. The teachers would also be a great source of moral support to the students not only with their subjects and academics but also by providing the students from the poorest of families in the state mental support,â€ť the petition added.
The state governmentâ€™s decision to announce dates for Class 10 board exams sparked outrage among teachers and parents due to the spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state each passing day. Many parents and teachers are of the opinion that the best strategy is to reopen the schools and then schedule exams for the students.