Fear, worries and panic among students as universities run board exams amid Omicron surge

Students say the university exams are being held without following safety protocols, with infected, non-infected and those with symptoms put together in the same examination hall. University officials refute the claims.

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: On Tuesday, BA LLB 3rd year students from Chakrabarti Habi Education Academy, a college of law affiliated with Purbanchal University, boycotted the board exam. The reason, said the students, was the exam center’s negligence to Covid-19 safety protocols. The students were worried and felt unsafe to appear in the exam. A short video showing the incident has been shared widely on social media.

While the recent rapid surge of cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 has shaken the whole country leading the government to force shutdowns of educational institutions nationwide in a bid to curb the virus spread, the universities in the country are holding board exams of undergraduate and graduate-level students affiliated to various faculties. Hundreds of students are appearing for the exam.

The way in which the universities are conducting those exams, however, has left many students deeply worried about their health.   

The students say that the universities have been indifferent towards their safety protocols putting the health of the students in risk. The students say that the exam centers are not even following the basic safety protocols to keep the students safe from Omicron. 

Social distancing is not followed–with many students put inside the room. And there are no dedicated rooms for those who are infected  or have the symptoms of the coronavirus. 

Nepal Live Today talked to a number of students regarding the matter and all of them expressed their anger, disappointment and anxiety about the utter negligence the universities have shown regarding Covid safety. 

“Infected, non-infected and those with symptoms have been put together in the same hall. There is no separate room for the infected and those with Omicron symptoms,” said a BA LLB student of Purbanchal University requesting not to be named. “I haven’t been able to concentrate properly on my studies, the poor situation in the exam center has disturbed me mentally.” 

“Likewise, the exam center also does not provide sanitizer and other necessary health kits for the students,” the student added.

The worst thing, complain the students, is that the universities have not introduced any provision of chance exams for those who are infected. “This is why even if we are sneezing, coughing, running down with high fever and have Covid, we have to sit for the exams.  Who can afford to lose one academic year?” another student said.

If the students cannot appear for the exams due to Covid infection the only option they have is to wait for next year and attend ‘back papers.’  

“The exam center is also not well managed. There is no social distancing.  They keep two students on one small bench,” said another law student of PU in a condition of anonymity. “This has increased Covid risk not only in me but the whole family of mine,” the student said. 

The students have requested their respective colleges to address their concerns but to no avail.  According to the students, the college responded by saying “we can’t do anything about it,  the exam is conducted by the university, it is all upon them.”

“We even found that students said they were infected and when we asked for the report, they had none,” said a university official.   

The story is common with most examination centers where universities are holding their board exams.

A BSC CSIT student of Tribhuvan University said his exam center is also not following the safety protocols. 

“A number of students with the symptoms of Covid 19 are appearing for exams,” said the student. “Some of them cough and sneeze throughout the whole exam hours, sending panic and fear to the rest of others in the exam hall.” 

More than 25 students are placed inside one examination room while the government has already issued the directive that gatherings of more than 25 people should be prohibited. 

Even though the students have already sent letters to universities demanding alternative exam methods and safety in the exam centers they haven’t received any replies. 

The officials of the universities, however, insist that they have followed the safety protocols. “All of our exam centers are well managed and have followed all the safety protocols,” said Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Exam Controller at Purbanchal University. 

“We have managed dedicated exam halls for the infected and those with symptoms. Examinees are also provided hot water and sanitizers,” he said.   

Regarding the chance exam for those who cannot appear for the exam due to the virus, the university is holding a meeting on Wednesday, informed Basnet. 

Pushpa Raj Joshi, Controller of Examinations at TU, also claimed that the exam centers have followed the safety protocols. “There are no issues with the exam centers,” he told Nepal Live Today.  “We found that some students said they had been infected but when we asked them for the reports they had none. They think they will get a chance to cheat if they are kept in a separate room.”

“If some students cannot attend the exam due to the virus then they need to present a valid report to us and we will allow them to attend a chance exam in their favorable time, ” Joshi explained. 

Public health experts have also shown concerns over the ongoing university exams.  “If the exams are being conducted without following safety protocols as claimed by the students,” said Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert, “then it is totally wrong.” “This virus spreads rapidly,  and everyone sitting in one single class for three long hours can increase the risk of being infected.”

According to Dixit, it is best to do an antigen test on the students with symptoms before they enter the exam halls. “If anyone is tested positive then they should be kept in a separate class,” he said.