Relief can come in many forms. For the matriculation students in flood affected areas, who saw their academic year disrupted and their schools occupied by those escaping the wrath of the raging waters, help came from an unusual source — the education boards — which gave them concessions in their examinations keeping in mind the on-ground situation.
Last year’s floods caused widespread havoc. Lives were lost, uprooted and altered for life. Relief camps were set up in 2,784 schools in Sindh, affecting the studies of thousands of students. The academic calendar was changed, schools started in October instead of August, the day ended at 3pm rather than 12:30 or 1 pm and students were deprived of their vacation.
The actual ‘relief’ — which many camps could not provide — was given by the Board of Secondary Education (BISE), Hyderabad and Sukkur. They made sure the students sitting the annual board exams do not have to face difficult question papers.
“We wouldn’t say that we prepared a very easy exam paper, but we made sure it was not very difficult,” said BISE Hyderabad controller Amir Shafiq. “We are obviously aware of our surroundings and we realised what the children had gone through the whole year round. As a functional organisation, we made this decision and played our part.”
The board also decided to give a grace period to students. “The exams every year start around mid-March, but this year we gave the students more time to prepare.” The class IX board exams started on April 21 even though the syllabus had been covered by March.
The Sukkur board had less of the affected students sitting the exams at the schools falling under their jurisdiction. “But we kept the sufferings of the students in mind when we were making the question paper,” said the BISE Sukkur exam controller, Mehmoodul Hassan Khokhar.
Ehsan Ali Mangi, the headmaster of the Government Mohammad Khatimullah School, Sukkur confirmed to The Express Tribune that students told him the exam was relatively easier. “This was a great gesture as my students had to put up with a lot.”
Mangi’s school was turned into a flood relief camp from August 9 to October 15 last year. Furniture was damaged — mostly used as firewood by the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) — and the plumbing system was disrupted. A typewriter was stolen and the building reeked of human waste.
Kulsoom Shah had to deal with similar predicaments. She is the principal of the Government Fatima Elementary School, which was turned into a relief camp from September 6 to October 1. She had to bear tube lights, cupboards and six fans being stolen. “I had to suffer losses of about Rs35,000,” she estimated.
But more than that, the number of admissions to her school declined. “No parent wanted to send their children to a school that had turned into a relief camp. Enrolled children were also pulled out by some parents.”
But schools diligently finished the board exam course syllabus on time. It was a bumpy ride, but the easier exams helped the students cope.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2011.