Anxious, vexed

14 lakh SSC examinees, their guardians face uncertainty over the exams scheduled to begin on Feb 2 as blockade continues

Time is ticking away for Sabbir Ahmed and yet he cannot do what he must: concentrate. Worse, his anxiety is growing by the day.

An SSC candidate, he now should be busy making his last-minute preparation as his exams start in five days. But Sabbir is restless. He faces extreme difficulties concentrating on his studies. The Monipur High School student of the capital is uncertain if the exams will be held as per the routine. And the thought of reaching the exam hall safely is weighing him down more than anything else.

“How can I focus when I am in the middle of a sea of uncertainty? Who will be responsible if I perform poorly in the exam?” he tells The Daily Star.

His helplessness is shared by almost all of some 14 lakh candidates of SSC and equivalent exams. Their tests begin on February 2, with no indication yet that the BNP-led opposition alliance will lift or relax its countrywide blockade.

Against this backdrop, the education ministry sits today to discuss the current law and order situation and other issues relating to the exams.

Ministry officials say they have completed all the preparations for holding the tests on time. They also hope the blockade will be withdrawn considering the future of the students.

“We are all set to hold the examination as per the schedule and we would again request them [BNP-led alliance] to withdraw the blockade and hartals,” Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said yesterday.

“Calling off the ongoing blockade is the only solution. The BNP has gained nothing from it, except for killing so many people and hampering the entire education system,” he told this correspondent.

At least 33 people have died and scores have been burned and injured in violence since January 5.

Replying to a question, the minister said they could not postpone the exams because they did not know when the blockade would end.

“Please, don’t push the future of millions of students in further uncertainty.”

In 2013, the education ministry had to reschedule tests on at least 37 papers of SSC and 35 of HSC exams due to shutdowns called by the BNP-led alliance.

Last year, the primary terminal, JSC and equivalent exams also had to be rescheduled because of blockades and hartals.

Ministry officials say they are decided to hold the exams despite the blockade, but they are also concerned about the safety of the students.

“Let’s see what decision we reach tomorrow [today],” said a top official, requesting anonymity.

If the BNP at least kept the tests out of the blockade’s purview, the exams could be held on time, the official added.

Equally worried are the guardians. They say their kids will be in constant fear to take the exams even if these are kept out of the purview of the blockade.

Criticising the opposition political parties, parents said students already suffered a lot due to the blockade, as for these past three weeks their kids could not go to their private tutors or coaching centres for last-minute tips.

“How will the safety of our children be ensured? Can the government provide security to all the 14 lakh students?” said Khorshed Alam, guardian of an SSC examinee.

“How will our children get to the exam centres amid such vicious spate of violence and arson attacks?” he asked.

Things would be even more difficult for the students in rural areas.

A teacher of a high school in Dinajpur said, “Many children would take the exams in centres several miles away. And many students would travel by bus or other transports. How would the pickets distinguish the bus carrying students?”

He said the opposition should withdraw the blockade on the exam days.

This newspaper contacted five BNP leaders and asked them if the blockade would be lifted during the exam. Most of them declined to comment.

Only Rafiqul Islam Mia, a standing committee member, said he did not know if there was any decision yet in this regard.

Source: The Daily Star

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