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Priyanka Gandhi asks Centre to reconsider holding CBSE Class XII exams; makes several suggestions

'How can we expect them to set aside all that they are witnessing and focus on exams'

AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addresses on party's 135th foundation day at UPCC HQ in Lucknow | PTI AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addresses on party's 135th foundation day at UPCC HQ in Lucknow | PTI

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Monday, has written to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' asking him to reconsider holding CBSE Class XII exams.

"I have written to the Minister of Education summarising numerous suggestions I received from students, parents and teachers regarding the 12th standard CBSE exams. Their voice must be heard," she tweeted, along with the letter she sent to the minister.

She said she has already expressed her views on the issue publicly on multiple forums. "However, I am writing to you today to put before you the views of students, parents and teachers who have interacted with me on social media platforms so that you may be able to better understand the human, emotional and psychological cost of holding these exams under the circumstances," she wrote in the letter.

Noting that children are India's future, she said they "have already coped with immense pressures in the last year of their schooling. For much of the year, their schools remained closed, the normal interactions with friends that children thrive on have been practically absent. Many contracted COVID- 19 themselves and many have lost people they love, family members and friends in this year of tragedy and turmoil."

How can we expect them to set aside all that they are witnessing and focus on their board exams, she asked, adding, "How can we, as the guardians of their future, refuse to hear their cries of help and turn away from their requests to be heard?"

Below is a summary of messages from students, parents and teachers who have written to me in the

last few days, she wrote:

l. Students and parents overwhelmingly feel that appearing for exams in crowded examination centers is extremely unsafe. Some have written saying that they have vulnerable relatives at home—aged grandparents or ailing parents. They will be putting them at risk as well.

2. Many have suggested that as in other countries, internal assessments should be made for the students considering that the second wave of the pandemic has hit so hard at the very time when they were to study and sit for their exams. The very real fear and psychological trauma of the raging pandemic coupled with prolonged and intense pressure of the board exams can lead to sever mental health issues like depression, anxiety and PTSD.

3. Many students and parents suggested that there should be a comprehensive strategy by which students should be vaccinated fully before sitting for the exams. It is now too late to do this for this batch of students as they have already lost too much time. However, this could be the basis of plans made for students who might face similar circumstances in 2022.

4. The Chhattisgarh government has found some interesting and viable solutions to this issue. Some parents suggested that the CBSE board could follow a similar pattern. The exams could be conducted at home as open book exams, exam booklets could be picked up from schools or centers and returned after a set period of a few days. This would enable students to give the exams in a safe and conducive environment.

5. Many students wrote to say that they have lost loved ones. some have even lost one or both parents in the last few months. It is cruel and heartless to expect these children not only to study and perform well in the board exams. But even more so to subject themselves to crowded exam centers at which there is no guarantee for their health and safety.

6. One student made the point that conducting these exams may encourage a third wave. In fact. experts have repeatedly stated that a third wave is imminent. They have also warned that the third wave might be more perilous for children and teenagers. It is undeniable that children will collect in large numbers in exam centers across India if these exams are to be held. If infected. they will carry the infection back home to their siblings and other family members. Indeed, it is quite possible that the beginnings of another wave might develop from these circumstances.

7. Uncountable children are suffering from trauma, anxiety and depression already. Many have written to me saying how helpless and bereft they feel. They have been in this state of limbo for months now, struggling to cope with disease, deaths of people around them and circumstances that would have been unimaginable for any of us just two years ago. It is unfair to prolong this decision any further and to cause them even more stress when it is entirely avoidable.

8. Some parents have also suggested that if the government forces them to endanger their children's lives, then the Ministry of Education, the CBSE board and all those directly or indirectly responsible for such a decision should be prepared to be held legally liable for any mishap and/or damage due to disease or death that might take place as a consequence of their decision.

She said it would be a great injustice if the children are pushed into circumstances that will endanger their lives, and urged the minister to reconsider holding the exams.

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