As India’s top central university admitting over 19000 students coming from distinct socio-economic backgrounds – the onus of being fair, considerate, especially, “not ignorant” rests on Jamia’s defining characteristics – seemingly standing on a highly questionable ground.
Since October, Jamia Administration kept its students in a state of confusion, as well as anticipation by releasing an ambiguous notice mentioning End Semester Exams but with no clarity on the mode of examination. However, on 3rd December, a newspaper article informed the students that the forthcoming Examination would be conducted through ‘Proctored Online Mode’ – taking a step ahead in mentally distressing students.
On December 10th, a notice was released by the Office of the Controller of Examination, mentioning that odd semester exams would commence from 21st December 2020 – giving a gap of merely 10 days. Entitled ‘General Guidelines for the students appearing for Online Proctored Mode of Examinations for Odd semester/year end Examination December- 2020’ – the notice encapsulates a standard example of administrative ignorance, conscious or unconscious; sheer disregard of students’ ground reality and accountability that it morally holds towards them.
Stating the mandatory requirements of the latest version of FIREFOX Browser, a Windows Laptop/PC connection, stable internet, web camera and a smartphone, along with a complementary note stating, “Only PC/Laptop shall be permitted to appear Examinations not the smart mobile phone. However, Smartphones with cameras may be used to click the pic of the answer sheet and upload the same on the portal”, all in bold. Jamia Administration fails at the primary understanding of ‘privileges’ and economic diversity/disparity respectively.
This decision was taken despite repeated petitions, personal and collective mails, and various applications citing concerns of students, whilst making authority aware of its ‘discriminatory’ nature. While we are already battling the unprecedented circumstances of a pandemic and its various consequences, such unthoughtful decisions by educational authorities are only creating an undue pressure on students.
Mohammed Nasim, an undergraduate student of Arabic said, “I come from a rural area, I don’t have necessary equipment like laptops/PC to give the exams.” He further told us that, “I am currently living in my accomodation in Delhi where we have mattresses instead of beds. Moreover, I live with two other people.”
The notice “advised” students to make sure that they have their “own arrangements” for uninterrupted power and good internet connectivity for the complete duration of the test. A good amount of students in Jamia Millia Islamia come from rural India, in a large part of which electricity is an occasional luxury. Not only that, students also come from urban, but underdeveloped areas, where power supply is not reliable or consistent. How can a student make an “arrangement” for continuous electricity? The expectations of Jamia administration surpasses India’s capability as a third world nation. “Students would themselves be responsible for any lapses on this front so they are advised to make sure adequate backup is in place. Also if required data top up etc. should be done to ensure no disruption during the examination.” This is how the ‘advice’ was concluded in the notice.
Ilma Mujeeb, a second-year undergraduate student of English Literature, told us that, “Students like me who are residing in a state like Uttar Pradesh with a fluctuating net connectivity and no laptop/ PC facility will be deemed ineligible to appear in the proctored online exams. I was unable to attend my online classes in the past solely because of poor internet connection, let alone appear in online proctored exams without a laptop, and that too within a specific time span.”
Students from Kashmir, which went through the longest internet shutdown in a democracy and is currently under high-speed internet ban working only on 2G internet, are at a particularly disadvantageous position here. Inshu Rashid, an undergraduate student of History is from South Kashmir. She told us that the internet there stops regularly for hours and sometimes days, because of which she could not attend all of her classes. Inshu added that she was the topper of her class in Semester 1, but now she feels it is impossible for her to even sit in exams.
Another student from Kashmir said that, “When we were taking online classes, I have been kicked out of the class 6-7 times in 40 minutes, sometimes more than that. I was not even able to speak in the class due to the connection issues. My voice kept breaking all the time. We could not manage to keep our mics on, let alone think of our cameras as the 2G hardly supports it.” She added that, “We are never sure when they will snap the internet. And have no idea when they will restore it again.”
Moreover, students found themselves to be standing alone on this front. Text messages to the immediate professors did not receive replies, and mails kept on dodging between one authority to another – while being ignored largely. A student asked a professor for help because he did not have laptops/PCs to give the exams. The professor quite nonchalantly replied, “Borrow it”.
Students have also been asked to take the test in a separate room with no other person present there for the duration of the examination, which is blatantly overlooking the fact that a lot of students are living with flatmates and in PGs, some are in joint families and some have siblings, but most importantly, not every student has a house with more than one room.
The ‘Guidelines’ issued by Jamia Millia Islamia is simply classist and discriminatory in its essence. While we celebrate the mosaic culture of this University, we should also be aware that on the other side of diversity lies a fine line between the privileged and underprivileged which is widened through such exclusive “notices”, ultimately juxtaposing with the very ideals we are thriving on.
Nuzhat Khan is a student of English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Rutba Iqbal
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.