Response to a concerned parent

Editor,

I empathize with the parent who wrote to the Shillong Times, Jan 26, 2022 with the request “Will schools defer offline classes please?”. I am guessing that her/his child is a higher secondary school student at St Edmund’s, which is conducting offline exams. I too have a child in Class 12 in Army Public School, Shillong, and she attended offline exams last week. Yes, we are all concerned about the health and safety of our children and about the vulnerable elderly at home. No need, actually, for anyone to write an anonymous letter on this topic.
But a humane attitude takes into consideration the well-being of all. Hundreds of millions of children have lost out on their education because of the pandemic and many of them will never go back to school or recover lost years of learning. The majority are children from poor families. More than us middle class parents, they need to take risks and make more sacrifices to send their children to school. Now they have been denied even that opportunity.
The letter writer says the question is “when”? Well, the answer to that is a clear “now”. UNESCO has stated recently, “As of today, schools are shut, affecting over 156 million students. This should not go on. Schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen. Reopening schools for in-person learning cannot wait. It cannot wait for cases to go to zero.”
The World Bank has advised, “There is no justification now for keeping schools closed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and even if there are new waves, closing schools should be the last resort. There is no evidence that reopening schools has caused a surge in Covid cases. Schools should be the last places to shut their doors and the first to reopen with appropriate infection prevention measures.”
According to the WHO, “School closures did more harm than good, especially to children’s mental and social well-being. We can’t repeat the same mistakes. There is no relation between opening schools and the spread of Covid. Reopening schools cannot wait for all teachers and students to be vaccinated. All schools should provide in-person learning as soon as possible, without barriers to access, including not mandating vaccination prior to school entry”.
It was heartening to hear what the state education minister, Lahkmen Rymbui said yesterday, “Children need offline classes. Classroom teaching must return. What I see is that children are now psychologically prepared to go to their classes to learn”. There is no risk-free situation. Even in normal times, we worry about children catching infections, road accidents on the way to school, or playground injuries.
All schools must reopen now, for all grades, and in all parts of the state.

Yours etc.,

Glenn C. Kharkongor,

Via email

Online examinations a farce

Editor,

In my last letter published in your esteemed daily, I expressed my views on the use of unfair means by students in the online, at-home exams conducted by NEHU for undergraduate students. This time for the Odd Semester Examination, NEHU is again going to conduct a sit-at-home examination. I don’t prefer to call it an online mode of examination, because it is not a remote proctoring examination. For fair examination remote proctoring is also key to monitor the examinee’s behaviour to prevent malpractices. For example, some online examination proctoring software can access the examinees’ webcam, microphone, browser activity, and keyboard and mouse to monitor their behaviour during the exam, and any suspicious behaviour is reported to test administrators for review.
I understand NEHU does not have such a system in place to maintain transparency and fairness in an online at-home exam, where candidates sit in their homes or together with classmates to write exams. In such a situation, copying in examinations goes on unchecked. This is such an unfair mode of examination. I am also given to understand that answer decoding will not be in place again this time. Answer scripts will be evaluated in the respective colleges. This is again unjust. Given this opportunity, some colleges inflate the marks to the advantage of their own students. In the last year’s admission to Postgraduate Courses in NEHU, if one files an RTI one will find that in most of the Departments, the majority of admitted candidates were from a particular college.
While we understand that due to the current surge in Covid19, the University has to go for online examinations, the least University can do to minimize this unfairness is to go for decoding of answer scripts as practiced under normal situations. In the previous year’s so-called online examinations, in spite of the disparity in evaluation, students are not permitted to apply for re-evaluation, which is against the norms of the University.
Getting a degree takes a great deal of time, effort, money, and dedication. But students cannot be at the mercy of the incompetent new normal examination system of NEHU.

Yours etc.,

John A Mylliemngap,

Via email

 

Give the ‘Devil’ his Due

Editor,

Even though the state of Meghalaya still has many more miles to go in terms of overall development, appreciation should to given to this Government led by Chief Minister, Conrad K. Sangma and his team for their efforts in trying to solve two very thorny and long pending problems, the boundary problem with Assam and the Them Iew Mawlong problem. In the interest of our State, I wish them success.

Yours etc.,

Michael N. Syiem,

Via email

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