Jaipur: With May will come a deluge of entrance tests for which a large section of the country’s student population has been preparing for more than a year. Now, however, their futures have been thrown into disarray.
The panic over COVID-19 has all but taken over the academic calendar, putting a question mark on the dates of the all-India exams the dates of which had been announced much earlier.
While the Ministry of Human Resources have postponed the Joint Entrance Examination (Main), engineering entrance tests for admission into the National Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Information Technology and other colleges, that were supposed to take place in the first week of April, along with the status of other examinations like NEET, JEE (Advanced) and CLAT are still unclear.
Even when the educational bodies have declared that the examinations have been postponed, there is no one to counsel the students on their suddenly halted preparation process.
Public libraries, where students coming from a middle-class set-ups have always found rescue, are now closed.
“I used to go to the coaching centre in the morning and then after lunch, to the library, and studied there till evening. I was not upset when the coaching classes were called off or the examinations were postponed but this library shutdown is a big loss for me. It’s difficult to study at home, especially during the day time, when everybody is up,” said Rohit, a student preparing for CLAT examination in Jaipur.
Students narrate how their homes that are being converted into centres of isolation at these times have actually become a constant source of interruption.
“My younger brother’s school has closed. He is in class six and his exams are over. My mother doesn’t allow him to go out with friends, so he stays at home and watches television all the day. This distracts me. I put in ear plugs while studying but even that it not helping,” said Lokender, a JEE Mains aspirant.
Those who were staying in different cities for better performance and had planned only to return after writing the examinations, are retrieving fearing crackdown on their movement in the coming days as the community transmission might begin.
Dishu, a NEET aspirant from Bharatpur district of Rajasthan shifted to Jaipur last year with her mother to take admission into a medical coaching institute here. It’s been a year since she began her preparation to sit for the exam this year in May. However, post the COVID-19 shutdown, she is under pressure to return home and continue with her studies there.
“I had a great difficulty in persuading my parents to let me study from Jaipur. Everything was going so well but now my parents are just not listening. They don’t want to give me a month to stay here,” says Dishu.
She says it’s not possible for her to study at home where she doesn’t have a separate room. “This is the peak time of my preparation. Not even in my nightmares, had I expected that I would have to go back to home when the exam would be just a month away. I live in a joint family, and we have relatives and acquaintances arriving at our place everyday for hours.”
The Rajasthan government, like other states, announced a complete shutdown from March 15 to March 31, following which all the schools and coaching institutes in Rajasthan called off their classes. At many institutes, the syllabus hasn’t yet been completed. “Our Botany syllabus, from which about 45 questions are definitely asked,s is pending. If there wasn’t any shutdown, the course would have completed in a month,” Yashita, a NEET aspirant from Jaipur told The Wire.
She also added that they were supposed to have mock tests from the end of March. “The most important part of the preparation is to give maximum number of tests but now we have no means to do that.”
The coaching institutes say that they have asked the students to pick question papers from the office and do it at home but the students feel that doesn’t help in preparing themselves to handle the examination hall pressure. “At home, there are constant interruptions, one thing or the other crops up every minute. In fact, it’s really difficult to take out three hours without having to get up even once. It’s nearly impossible to get into the examination mood at home,” says Kalpana, another NEET aspirant in Jaipur.
The students say that they keep a check on each other through phone and help each other in remaining focused at this final juncture. “Every morning, we talk to our friends and discuss what we plan to study for the day. In the evening, we again talk and tell each other if we have completed the topic that we had listed in the morning. That’s the only way left for us to push each other amid the growing distractions,” said Konika, another student.
The teachers at the coaching institutes are also worried about the students’ results and are helping them to clear their doubts over phone or meeting them in person. “We tried to carry on with the classes post March 15 but the police intervened and then we had to stop the classes. All our students have my phone number and they are free to call me any time for any doubt they have. Some students who requests come over often do. But not in groups,” said Alok Gaur, a teacher at Plus Point Medical Coaching Institute in Jaipur.