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When Virtual lecture and practical are measured valid then why not online exam? Ask MUHS students

About 50,000 medical students from Maharashtra are at stake, Minister Amit Deshmukh reluctant on offline exams

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Image: AP

Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) students took to social media to make their voice reach Minister Amit Deshmukh. These students were opposing offline exams due to their personal safety amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, putting an end to the uncertainty regarding the pending second and third-year undergraduate as well as first-year postgraduate medical and dental exams, State Minister of Medical Education Amit Deshmukh confirmed that Maharashtra would ultimately hold the exams of MBBS students from 10th June to 30 June in offline mode and it would not be deferred any further. Deshmukh has urged the students to do their studies and prepare for exams.

Meanwhile, MUHS students are emphasizing either online examination or promotion based on internal assessments. The exams were scheduled between 10 to 30th June, but prolonged lockdown and the assumed third wave of COVID has put these students in unrest and the unavailability of vaccines for students is another major drawback. Despite the government’s assurance about their safety during exams, they don’t want to buy any threat to their health.

Alisha Shaikh, a second-year MBBS student says, “There is a lot of unrest in medical students mainly because their exams have been postponed 5 times. It’s really taking a toll on my mental health. Secondly, due to the increase in complications like Mucormycosis, this has just added to the unrest and the students are extremely worried, and to add to that, students with mild COVID symptoms are also allowed to give the exams with other students. In exam halls separation can be maintained but what about hostels?”

Aditya Gite, Joint Secretary of ASMI UG WING said, “Right now looking at the current scenario it is clearly not justifiable to conduct exams, most of the students are not vaccinated even with the first dose, it’s a high-risk situation and an invitation for the third wave. Also, black fungus is the new hurdle, which is deadly with 54% of the death rate! If the exams get postponed, for now, universities will get time to vaccinate students and also time to consult higher authorities for the conduction of online examinations, which is the safest way of protecting us from such high-risk pandemics. Lockdown has been implemented in the state making it almost impossible for many students to travel to their respective colleges. Considering these exams should be postponed at the earliest.”

Ayush Bang, a student of third-year MBBS said, “I believe that virtual exams can be conducted and it’ll be convenient & safer for all. We have been having our lectures online for at least the last 15 months. We’ve given our internal assessment exams virtually and in a similar pattern, final exams can be conducted too. It’ll be very risky for students as well as examiners to conduct offline exams. Invigilators can keep watch on student’s activities through a camera and it’ll be similar to giving offline exams and with no risk. Also, the software is available for conduction of exams in proper manner and is handy & enables invigilator for strict invigilation.”

Om Mangrulkar, Joint Secretary (Marathwada region) of ASMI UG WING said, “The biggest inconvenience at the moment is we can’t travel to our hostel as the state is in lockdown and for e-pass, we need a hall ticket which should be collected from the college. There’s still a huge chance of infection during the journey and also the public transport is unavailable in most places and not everyone can afford private transport.”

Aditya Thorat, a third-year medical student and member of the ASMI UG wing said, “Students are firm on their demand for conducting exams online and challenging the NMC norms for this pandemic period. More than 75% of students aren’t completely vaccinated and if the virtual exams aren’t possible at least vaccinate us completely with both doses before the exams which must be accepted under Article 21. It will take at least 3 months for complete vaccination so exams should be postponed for an indefinite period. Conducting exams in present circumstances will not only provoke 3rd wave but could lead to mass genocide.”

Shubhadeep Turkane, Regional Representative (ROM region) ASMI UG WING said, “We have sent letters to the minister, student association and other political leaders where we were assured that the minister has your problems in mind and will take decisions favourable to the students. University officials denied any postponement and stated the exams will be as per schedule and university and institutions are prepared for exams. NSUI approached Amit Deshmukh with our demands on Thursday and is expecting a positive response but ministers haven’t made any decision yet.”

Sachchidanand Vasistha, a third-year MBBS student said, “In this condition of pandemic social media is the only safest protest means left for us, to make university and government listen about our situation, as they are so eager to conduct the exam in offline mode without taking proper measures for our safety, our parents worried for us, I can’t assume that university is not well aware of our condition but still they are not taking steps in student safety is an absolute reason to grieve, and so we are obliged to protest against unfair means and social media is our only option right now, hope MUHS take necessary steps before this takes a huge toll on us.”

“This question is related to both my life and the future. Only when life is there will I be able to think of the future. By pleading with everyone every day, I now feel as if I am begging for my own life,” Vasistha added.

Saurav Yadav, student of third-year MBBS. I think the easiest way to get COVID is to conduct physical exams at this time.

Following points are the reasons as to why:

1. Aerosol transmission up to 10m from a mild carrier also can infect a healthy individual. And MUHS has allowed mild symptomatic students as well.

2. Physical exams need students to be physically present at their hostels. In a 10ft*10ft room with 2-3 students residing in it, social distancing is the last thing we can do.

3. Government has cancelled the boards of even the 12th CBSE + ICSE let alone the 10th ones. The reason being that maintaining physical distance in an exam hall isn’t a practical approach; it’s far from reality. It can just be appreciated on paper.

4. Starting from the hostel, to the transport buses we’d be taking to the exam centre, and then getting in contact with the students of that college our centre is in, none of the aforementioned scenarios is feasible for social distancing.

5. Seven exams would repeat this dangerous cycle 7 times. At the time when no one is leaving their homes, we’d be contacting potential carriers of COVID among these 7 cycles. What are the chances that one can get out of this cycle without catching the disease?

6. More than 70% of students are not vaccinated. Their lives would be in danger for an exam.

If apt decision isn’t taken soon, MUHS exams would be remembered as something which created a hotspot of its own due to stubbornness of their own.

Atharva Shinde regional representative (Vidarbha region) of ASMI UG WING said, “We appeal to the Education Minister of Maharashtra, to intervene in this serious issue of about 50,000 medical students from Maharashtra. We, students, are requesting and appealing for so many days towards the welfare of medical students but neither central nor state government is taking our responsibility. Just a blame game is going on and we are bluntly hammered down between all these demands either online examination or indefinite postponement till every exam going student gets vaccinated. When online lectures and online practical’s were considered valid then why not online exams?”

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