Chaos and confusion prevailed at the Maharashtra state board’s divisional office on Monday, as the officials grappled with last-minute requests for writers, extra time and other concessions offered by the board.
More than 15 lakh students from across Maharashtra, including 3.39 lakh from Mumbai division, will appear for the class 12, Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams commencing on Tuesday, with English (01) as the first paper.
This year, there is a 20% increase in the number of special students — learning disabled and spastic — as the number has climbed to 1,088 from 902 last year. This is coupled with 6% jump in the candidates from Mumbai division, which includes Thane, Palghar and Raigad, this year. Around 1.83 lakh students will appear from the commerce stream, compared to 1.76 lakh last year, while those from science increased to 96,658 from 86,627, and arts will witness 54,364 candidates, nearly the same as last year.
Requests for adult writers — a facility started by the board from last year — flooded the office on the eve of the exams on Monday, as students complained that they are unable to find writers younger to them. “During SSC exams, schools had arranged for younger writers, but this year class 11 students in the college are busy with their own exams,” said Lakshada, sister of a learning disabled student from Khalsa College, Matunga. “This is our fourth visit to the board as they have been asking for more and more papers.”
To make matters worse, the board was short-staffed, with some of the officials deputed to other duties. Only one official was present to attend to the student requests. “The official who was in charge of the work was sent for some other work,” explained the official, who was busy signing the requests that flooded the divisional board office at Vashi.
Students’ kin, college clerks waited from morning to late evening to get permissions from the board. “The officer who handled our case didn’t come to work today. So I had to submit documents all over again,” said a clerk from Nirmala College, Kandivli, who needed to get concessions for two students — one handicapped and another cancer survivor.
In some cases, permissions were pending even for students who had applied for concessions several days ago. “I had applied for extra-time for my daughter last month. This is the fourth time I was called and the permissions are not in place, even on the eve of the exams,” said another parent.
However, board officials blamed the students for their tardiness. “It has become a habit of the students in Mumbai division to wait till the last minute before applying for writers or any other facility,” said Dattatray Jagtap, chairperson of the board.
The exam will be conducted across 500 centres. Flying squads have been appointed to keep malpractices such as cheating and copying in check.
Four cancer survivors will test their mettle
After successfully fighting cancer at a young age, four brave hearts from Mumbai will appear for the HSC exam on Tuesday and will not use writers.
Shweta Dhobiyal, 17, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2010, can’t move her right hand or write for a long time, but she insists on writing her paper. “It hurts when I write, but I don’t want someone else to write for me,” said Shweta from Nirmala College, Kandivli. The board will give her 20 more minutes to finish her exam.
Similarly, Sneha Ari, who battled blood cancer, refused to get a writer. “My shoulders and legs hurt when I sit and write, but I can’t trust a writer with my paper,” said Ari, studying in Bhavan’s College. Another student from Sathaye College, Vile Parle, too, lived through blood cancer and will take the exam today. “It’s commendable that these students have overcome so many odds, and have the drive to study,” said Siddheshwar Chandekar, secretary of divisional board.
Autistic student will write exam on computer
A 17-year-old autistic student from Father Agnel Multipurpose School, Vashi, will write HSC exams on a computer. The boy cannot write using a pen and paper. To prevent malpractices, the board has inspected the computer before the exams.
Officials said the student will be given a printed question paper to read and answer the questions on the computer. “We give special permissions to autistic students and we have done so in the past too,” said the board official. “The student cannot write but has learnt using the computer for his years at the school.”
The board ensures that the computer is free from all programmes except MS Word which the student will use to answer the papers.