You won’t imagine a duller place than an examination centre for high school students, and it is not a newsworthy spot either. But if it is in Bihar, India, it may break these rules. The world discovered what an action-packed location a school building was on 19th March 2015, in the state’s Vaishali District, being a venue for the ongoing class 10 matriculation examinations. The building’s photo of that date splashed across newspapers spoke vividly, more than the accompanying report.
Did you see that picture all over print media, national and international, and in the internet – a rustic unplastered brick wall of a four-storey building, with scores of men perched on its external sun-shades and slab-projections at different levels, many of them looking in through windows? They were handing in helpful cheat-sheets to students assembled inside the school building to write exams – their friends or relatives. Some of the men were in the act of climbing their way up the wall to deliver. Ropes tied to many windows on that wall hung down to the ground to help climbers. The sight was amusing, and saddening too.
Boys and girls have a huge stake in the marks they score in school final examination, because for some who will not study further that will be their educational identity for ever and for those who desire admission to colleges for higher studies these marks give them a push – and are valued more by those who won’t be questioned to check if their mark sheets match their wit. Now, if some of them writing those exams copy answers from cheat sheets and could get away with that, why would other students not do it too? After all no student likes to score less marks than any other – surely not less than those who sit next, cheat and smile.
So don’t just blame all the students who copied. Blame the examination supervisors who turned a blind eye. But maybe they were forced to look the other way by a long entrenched copy culture in those areas, and they prefer to stay healthy and painless than intervene. It is also like chaotic traffic on a busy road intersection. The fault of the scene should lie on the traffic police, not on many helpless road users. If some drivers flout traffic regulations but are not booked, many others would do the same thing wanting to get out and keep going.
I think the Bihar photo shows in a way a malady afflicting many parts of India, more in that state. That is, though the country has plenty of peaceful, industrious and intelligent citizens its rulers and policy makers are self-centered, greedy and visionless – to the point of even derailing the people for private good. If India is shining in patches it is in spite of its governments and not because of them.
Mass copying in exams is the least of dare devil acts or criminal deeds anyone may do, especially at high school age. It needs no fine technology or colossal effort from an administration to stop it. It just requires a serious intent not to let the malpractice go on. Then why are remedial measures not seen and why is Bihar making big news of this kind? If you think of a plausible explanation like this many might agree with you: If an administration adopts unclean and unworthy practices that largely go unchecked, then the prospering group at the helm might allow some privileges to the poor bystanders and onlookers. These privileges are like gifts given by the left hand. They could cool the common people who may otherwise be angry with the administration for what it does, and could also blunt people’s intent, if any, to protest against many things in the public sphere. And the end result could be unspoken mutual forgiving. But then, with more media glare falling on the free and merry copying, the background rules of live and let live could see changes in the future.
Tens of thousands of Indians – the peaceful, industrious and intelligent ones – who had a chance to grow wings have gone out to other countries where they are allowed to fly high and display their talent and prowess. Their less fortunate brothers and sisters in some parts of India don’t even have a chance to grow wings, leave alone flap and look to fly. That is something you cannot capture on camera.
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