Hasnat Fatma, 19, a medical seat aspirant from Kanpur, says her NEET exam centre left much to be desired. The candidates had a harrowing time in un-sanitised environs with little food or water.
Medicine is an ever-growing, ever-evolving field and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how important it is to have state of the art medical resources for our society. But sadly the well-being of students, who will be the frontline workers tomorrow, isn’t being given the required attention. This is the impression I got from the way the recently-held NEET exam was conducted.
I took the medical entrance exam (NEET) on September 13. If you ask my personal opinion, I would have preferred the exam be postponed, for most of us are just about adjusting to the changes the pandemic has brought in its wake. Most students hadn’t been able to study properly. I am a gap year student (I passed Class 12 last year) and this was my second attempt at NEET. The difference in the way the exams were conducted this year and the last couldn’t have been more stark.
Last year, we could choose any time slot and take the 3 hour long exam. This year, we were asked to report at a scheduled time, 11 am in my case. I had expected the exam to begin maximum at around 11:30 or even 12, after the requisite precautions like temperature checks etc. But would you believe it, our exam started only at 2 pm?
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We were ushered inside at 11 am and made to wait till 2 pm. Clearly, the organisers weren’t up to the mark at the exam centre. I had left home at around 7:30 am with my brother because we knew traffic would be heavy and had reached the venue at 10:30.
There were no social distancing measures at the main gate. We were told that there would be around 100 students only at this centre, to ensure distancing norms, but there were nearly 250-300 students. We were asked to wear masks provided by the centre, but they were all of the same size. While many boys were uncomfortable with the undersized masks, several others, particularly those wearing spectacles, suffered from foggy glasses.
None of us was allowed to take our water bottles inside, nor were we provided any water at the centre. There was no food available too. So from 11 am to 5 pm, when the exam finally got over, there was little for us to eat or drink. A person can still carry on without food for six hours, but without water! Isn’t that going to compromise our health?
The invigilators must have realised it when at the fag end of the exams, many students complained of dehydration. The students were then allowed to go to the water cooler, throwing social distancing and sanitising norms to the wind. Leave alone the precious moments lost at the long queue. The washrooms also weren’t being sanitized after use.
Most students had come using personal modes of transport because of the fear of Covid-19. But no proper parking arrangements were made. Those family members accompanying the aspirants had a terrible time too. To cut the long story short, it was one of the toughest days of my life, possibly the worst 12 hours I ever spent. I sincerely wish that exams of this scale and importance were better organized.