Maharashtra reported 34,848 new COVID-19 cases and 960 deaths, while the total number of active cases reported are 4,94,032 and progressive deaths are 80,512. The state government has geared up to tackle the third wave of the COVID-19 and launched strengthening of health infrastructure and medical facilities.
Looking at the safety of students Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has postponed the winter 2020 examination four times till now, from January 1st week to February 3rd week to March-end and April end this year and now for 2nd of June 2021. There is a frequent postponement that has petted the medical students.
Alisha Shaikh a medical student said, “We do not want further postponement as the exams have already been postponed multiple times and we’re already lagging, but at the same time, there is a lot of fear and panic over offline exams considering the current scenario. We’re very much alarmed about our health. Unless the concerned authorities have a foolproof plan for the safety of students, there is no point in appearing for offline exams. Wearing masks and social distancing norms can be followed to an extent in the exam hall, but in the hostels, circumstances would be totally different. It’s hazardous to keep social distancing norms at hostels when more than 1 student from diverse locations including common mess, bathrooms get occupied. The majority of the medical students hasn’t been vaccinated yet.”
Looking at the severity of the Pandemic and where the black fungus is damaging COVID patients, one thing is clear, conducting offline exams by postponing the dates can never be a solution.
Maharashtra Health University exams, which were slated for June 2 are expected to be postponed as the state government has extended lockdown restrictions till 7 am on June 1. The Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh indicated this on Saturday after an online meeting with the department officers and the Health University’s acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Nitin Karmalkar.
Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that the “health and wellbeing of students is of paramount importance over exams.”
“In this grave situation where every major university took the exams online or got the students promoted, our university is still sticking up to the rules of pre-pandemic times as if nothing has happened. Being in Delhi with such a strict lockdown, I’d be unable to travel to Maharashtra. These are the concerns that the university doesn’t even address. Online exams or promotion is what we need for our safety,” said a medical student Saurav Yadav.
Another student Aditya Thorat said, “Our points are clear, promotion or online exams. We just need to convince them that NMC should change guidelines for the pandemic period and should not give preference to offline exams over students’ lives.”
“The current scenario is the worst. Maharashtra has the highest number of patients to date and in this drastic situation taking offline exams is inviting another spike. So offline exams are not an option and universities should opt for other methods like online exams. We are not against exams but against giving offline exams in such a dreadful situation,” said Atharva Shinde.
“Amidst pandemic, not only physical health but also mental health is at stake. Going back to our college, travelling hundreds of miles and risking our health is very unfair & we are not even vaccinated yet! We demand online exams for the same. NMC should take student-friendly call & make necessary changes in guidelines for the same,” stated Ayush Bang.
Krishna Zanwar said, “Already we are dealing with the second wave of this pandemic and as we all know the third wave is on its way and by taking offline exams University is risking our life. Many students and their families are still suffering from this. Travelling in lockdown is not feasible. So, we request to take the online exam or promote based on internal assessment.”
“15% of students are belonging to other states like me from Rajasthan, Delhi, UP, WB, etc. Due to strict lockdown in states, it is not possible for us to reach the nearest transport facilities and not everyone could afford private transport. There’s a high chance of catching infection during more than 24 hrs of the journey. Student safety can’t be ignored at such pandemic time for just that university can’t update its mode of examination,” said Sachchidanand Vashishth.
Shubhadeep Turkane said, “During such time of crisis where the death rate is reaching its height, parents are afraid to let their children out risking their lives for sake of examination, many students being comorbid can attract serious complications if they get infected during the examination, considering such high risks NMC should consider an option of taking online exams for the mental and physical well-being of future doctors.”
“The 3rd wave is going to hit us soon and a lot of lives are at stake, so we humbly request the authorities to look at other options. Can’t exceptional decisions be made in exceptional circumstances?” says Rajwardhan Korpe.
“In this situation, where lives are already at stake, I feel our system should be upgraded and online options should be implemented for exams, nothing is important and greater than our lives. Let’s risk our lives for saving patients not for giving exams,” said Aditya Gite.
So far 3660 students are tested COVID positive and still the count is rising and 5736 active cases are in their family members and many of them are hospitalized, some are even in critical conditions.
As of now most of the students are at their residences and need to travel to reach their respective colleges which is impossible due to major lockdown in many districts and states from where the students belong.
There is a possibility that these students can get infected in course of the journey to their respective colleges as most of the students going to travel by public transport and can spread the virus at examination centres, where almost 500 students will be appearing for the exams in each centre. The biggest worry is that more than 75% of students are yet to be vaccinated.
Students from other states find it very difficult to get transportation to travel. Some are under strict lockdown and can’t even reach the nearest railway stations. Most of the students are from middle-class backgrounds and affording a private vehicle is not possible. If they somehow get access then there’s a high chance of infection during the journey. The state is under lockdown till 1st June. This might cause trouble in accessing intrastate transport to the college.
Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh admitted that the examinations of various courses of the Health Universities earlier decided to be held on 2nd June. “However, given the present coronavirus pandemic situation and the imposition of strict restrictions up to June 1, the University has been asked to do fresh planning and revise the schedule and submit the proposal for the government for approval,” he said.
Postgraduate – Summer -2021 exam of Medical students was scheduled for June 24. However, they have already been postponed. So far, the minister has said we are not sure about online exams or promoting the students without examination.
Minister also told Afternoon Voice, “We would be taking every precaution towards the safety of medical students before announcing the exam dates. Changing the MUHS norms is not feasible at this moment.”