Opinion

For a safe JEE/NEET

Neela Bhattacharya | Updated on August 20, 2020

Covid safeguards for students & administrators

Now that the Supreme Court has quelled all doubts and firmly said that the JEE and NEET exams have to be conducted as scheduled, it is time for the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the state administration to take concrete steps to conduct the exams smoothly and safely.

As a first step, the number of centres will have to be increased to prevent huge crowds at any one centre. And each centre will have to be provided with clear instructions as to how to conduct the exam. We hear of sloppiness in even regular centres, like starting the exam late, the clock in the exam hall not working, children being unnerved by rude treatment, etc. And now, amidst a daunting pandemic, these children will have to take the exam that determines their entire life. It is, therefore, vital for the administration to rise to the occasion. The children now preparing for JEE/NEET would be advised to start giving mock examinations with their masks on. Continuously wearing a mask is a huge learning process, and if not accustomed to now, during the exam it would not only be cumbersome but downright dangerous as children, already anxious, may also feel breathless and giddy.

The children coming into cities from afar may have to come in at least a week in advance and arrangements need to be made for them to stay in college/school hostels so that they can safely spend their quarantine period.

On the exam day itself, there has to be clear advisory for the children to come in a staggered manner, at least three hours earlier so that they can be screened for fever or respiratory infection and children having these may be given a separate place to write the exam. If there are morning and evening shifts, then the exam timings should be so scheduled there is at least three hours between the shifts. This would enable the first batch to safely exit before the second batch comes in, preventing a huge jam and chaos in the interval.

The access roads to exam centres become hopelessly clogged with vehicles, parents and children This must be prevented at all costs. The access roads can be cordoned off, parents must be advised not to come. Children can be taken to centres from the main roads by buses or some local transport, maintaining social distance.

The exams should ideally be conducted in large well-ventilated halls instead of dingy classrooms. Masks must be compulsorily worn not only by the students but also the invigilators, the volunteers and the ancillary staff like watchmen and sanitary staff. A provision may be made for each child to wash his/her hands with soap and water, wipe off with tissue before entering the exam hall. The exam halls have also to be thoroughly sanitised beforehand. The children must be seated with adequate spacing. The invigilators may wear gloves to collect the papers and place them in sealed plastic bags for transport.

There must be enough provision for drinking water, some clean refreshments for the children in a separate room. It may even be wise to enlist a doctor for emergency decision-making and service. Nothing that entails removal of the mask like supplying tea/coffee or smoking should be allowed inside the examination hall. For successful conduct, volunteers may be roped in from among NGOs, teachers or parent community. A little empathy and a lot of forethought and planning would make sure that the life determining exams of JEE/NEET are conducted safely.

The writer is consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and Project Director, Smile Train, Anandaloke Multispeciality Hospital, Siliguri

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Published on August 20, 2020
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