Dear Hon’ble Minister,
Allow us to first thank you for the pro-active decisions you are taking on behalf of school students of this nation in this unprecedented and difficult period during the pandemic.
We are mothers of differently-abled children who are set to take the board exams of the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), a board founded by the Government of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development with the honourable intent to help children with economic and learning difficulties secure a school education. With a cumulative enrolment of nearly three million students across the country, it is one of the largest open systems in the world that is offering a noble service of education to students with economic and special needs.
This time the students had their board exams scheduled in April–May 2020, which has now been rescheduled. This is a plea to help students with special needs who are due to take the Senior Secondary board exams in July-August, 2020 with the assistance of scribes/readers.
Union Minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal. Photo by Tribhuvan Tiwari/Outlook
Special needs students are faced with severe challenges in order to take the NIOS board exam. Owing to their disabilities, they will need to sit in close proximity to their scribes (amanuensis) to take the exam. Some of the major issues faced by these students are highlighted below:
Social distancing issues: Many of the students have speech disorders like slurring, speaking in weak vocals and so on. The scribes will have to sit very close to them to listen and write the exam. Social distancing is compromised by this and puts both the special students and scribes at risk.
Severe comorbidity issues: Many special students with developmental disorders also have comorbidity problems that make them vulnerable to infections easily than the generally healthy members of the population.
Sensory issues: Autistic people have severe sensory issues. This makes it difficult for many of them to wear masks over their faces which increases their anxiety levels, claustrophobic fears and leads to sensory distress. Sitting for three hours, wearing face masks and gloves etc., in an exam centre is stifling and distressing for them to endure.
Availability of scribes: Parents of scribes are rightfully concerned to allow their children to perform amanuensis duties owing to the pandemic hazards.
Given the flare in infections we, the concerned parents of differently-abled children, request you to please use your good offices to promote them. Else they can be promoted on the basis of their Tutor Marked Assignments (TMA) and Practical board Examination marks which were awarded to the students in 2020 for the exams already.
We believe that this will both protect these students, under the disability law provisions, and also help them tide over the ongoing health crisis caused due to COVID-19.
NIOS board is based on helping vulnerable sections of students and we request you to show care at this unprecedented time.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
Bhavna Sabharwal, Mousumi Gogoi, ShalooDua, Shalini Verma, Sheena Oberoi, Sudha Tilak, Winni Mahajan