KARACHI: Cambridge students in Pakistan who have to appear for the October/November 2020 session want the Cambridge International board to delay or cancel the exams as both regular and private candidates do not want to risk their lives at examination centres.
The students have been protesting in different cities, outside press clubs, outside the British High Commission and Deputy High Commissions as well as outside their respective educational institutions for someone to hear them out.
Recently they also came out with a detailed charter of demands with facts and figures to support their demands.
While agreeing that the situation is better than May 2020 and the seating arrangement in examination halls is quite organised and a reasonable distance is maintained between candidates, they have said that the authorities still ignored the fact that the world is dealing with a deadly pandemic that has high chances of spreading, specially when hundreds of students gather outside the waiting areas where it is nearly impossible for anyone to ensure social distancing.
Cite Covid-19 concerns, lack of proper preparations during lockdown
They also pointed towards increase in Covid-19 cases in Pakistan after Sept 15 and that the number is expected to increase after the reopening of primary schools.
Advanced Subsidiary or AS-Level and A-Level students have been completely helpless as AS students have to manage their O-Levels exams and AS classes together while being home, and A-Level students are given no help from schools, while many are unable to afford the online class system due to lack of devices.
Without any preparation, the exam session will only worsen their mental health.
It was also explained that in these uncertain times, many students are trying their best to prepare for their exams under mental stress as several among them have either lost their family members or they are suffering from the coronavirus. Many students, too, are themselves currently suffering from Covid-19 and are in complete isolation.
The students also said that considering the worst-case scenario for the October session, they wanted a change in syllabus. They added that they must be given a reasonable decrease in the syllabus that will be assessed and there must be leniency in the paper checking, too.
The students said that there was no decision made for private Cambridge students earlier but they demand for them the policy used in the UK and Scotland as they must be treated the same as regular students.
Their academic years and time is as precious as that of the others.
The May/June candidates were given good grades from schools and shown leniency and the regular students said that they expect the same from Cambridge and the government of Pakistan for the private candidates, too.
Hajrah, a student questioned that if they awarded expected grades for the May/June session then why not the same for the Oct/Nov session. “We are all affected by the same pandemic so why are the students of this session being treated differently?”
Raheem, a private candidate, said that he hasn’t prepared for his exams because no institutions were open and Cambridge had not given private candidates the option to withdraw as well. “Kindly cancel these exams and give us predicted grades like you did before,” he said.
Roshni, a student of A2, said that her entry was deferred by her school without her consent just because her school fee was paid a little late. “I came to know about this around mid-August when the May/June results were announced. Now I don’t have much time to prepare for the upcoming exams as there are no physical classes in college and the online classes, which have just started, are of no help as the syllabus cannot be covered in such a short span of time, nor was it covered before the lockdown started around the end of February. How are we now supposed to get good grades? And if I don’t score well now, I won’t be able to get admission in my desired universities,” she said.
Hamna, a student of AS-Level, said that schools were closed for over six months and students couldn’t do practicals, which make up about 30 per cent of A-Level grades. “We had to do self-study without any help because online classes were only being conducted for the new classes and not for the exam course we were preparing for,” she pointed out.