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Online exams

Many students in universities and educational institutes have been protesting against conducting on-campus physical examinations as the nation is still grappling with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The students have instead been demanding holding online examinations just like they have been holding classes throughout the past year.

These protests have been ongoing since the past week in many cities and have seen sporadic violence. There were clashes between students and security forces in Lahore and Faisalabad while several students were injured. The university administration refused to negotiate with students and instead closed the gates while many students were baton-charged. A day earlier, the police was called in and arrested students who were protesting for their rights. Such acts of high-handedness by the law enforcement agencies must be highly condemned.

The students have been facing serious grievances that must be addressed. Educational institutes have been closed for much of the last year which has impacted their studies as the necessary coursework has not been completed. Many universities have closed down hostels and students from other cities have faced immense trouble. Some were compelled to return home but faced immense trouble as weaker internet connections in small towns affected their studies. The students are also protesting that universities are charging full fees despite not providing the necessary services.

Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood addressed the students’ concerns and said the decision to conduct online examinations is the prerogative of the university and not the government. He vowed to talk to the HEC and consult universities about whether online exams can be held in a manner that no student is left behind and high standards of assessment are maintained. The minister placed the decision up to the institutes who are under increasing pressure to accede to the demands.

Many universities have thousands of students and it would be a challenge to hold online examinations. The institutes also lack the capacity to hold exams online in a transparent manner and ensure no unfair practices take place. Some students without required facilities such as speedy internet may also be left behind. It is imperative that the needs of all students must be addressed before holding online exams rather than taking hasty decisions as their academic career is at stake.

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