In the second week of August, dozens of students from the huge Nepalese University of Tribhuvan took to the streets to demand that the in-person exams be canceled. They carried signs, some saying “No vaccine, no tests”, and launched a Twitter campaign – #canceltuexam.
Students resorted to the protest after the administration of the university – one of the largest in the world, with 415,000 students enrolled in 2021 – refused to cancel physical exams until students be vaccinated, or go for online testing.
Founded in 1959, Tribhuvan University is the oldest in the country. It is located in Kirtipur, an ancient city near Kathmandu, and covers 155 hectares.
The university is doing physical exams at a time when the daily number of coronavirus cases in Nepal is over 3,000 and at least 25 people die from COVID-19 every day.
Tribhuvan University (TU) operates over 300 programs, from bachelor’s to doctorate. But aside from a half-dozen programs in the education stream, he has organized in-person exams for all courses. Students say they risk their lives taking tests.
“If we can study online, why doesn’t the university run virtual tests or validate internal assessments? ”Asked Sweta Siwakoti, a Bachelor of Information Management student at Nepal Commerce Campus. “The university administration is forcing students to take the tests at the expense of their health.”
Although the government has issued public protocols banning gatherings of more than 25 people in an effort to thwart the spread of COVID-19, students say 80 to 90 people are crammed into rooms while passing tests.
Students from a dozen colleges take exams at unique centers in Kathmandu and other major cities. The Padma Kanya campus, for example, hosts exams for 11 colleges in Kathmandu. Students complain that examination centers do not follow health safety protocols.
On August 10, the police intervened in demonstrations organized on the Padma Kanya campus by candidates opposing the physical examinations. On August 11, the government decided to administer COVID-19 vaccines to students with an exam admission card.
However, the university did not allow a window period after the vaccination.
“Someone should tell the university administrators that the COVID-19 vaccine does not work the same day it is administered,” said a business administration student at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya in Bhaktapur, a military college. The student was speaking on condition of anonymity.
“What would TU lose if it allowed a three week break for vaccination and continued testing. In Nepal, the government administers vaccines with a minimum gap of 21 days between two doses.
Authorities reject student complaints
Officials at Tribhuvan University contemptuously claim that students are not paying due attention to security measures. They argue that the completion of reviews is necessary, as they have accumulated since last year.
Vice Chancellor Dr Dharma Kanta Banskota said there were various issues for a university with a high number of registrations to take online tests. “A significant number of our students are not even able to take their exams online. How can we do online testing for them? ” he said.
“In addition, the number of registrations for many programs exceeds 10,000 each. The existing internet server cannot support the burden of testing all these students. And we cannot organize separate exams for a single program.
Banskota said that due to the massive number of students, it was also not possible to know if the students taking the tests were genuine. “There is no point in doing a test that lacks credibility,” he said.
Students, however, argue that Nepal has been under threat of a pandemic for a year and a half. If the university had prioritized this, it could have already prepared for virtual testing.
“TU’s reluctance to take virtual exams has ruined more than a year of our life,” said Tika Bhandari, a master’s student majoring in physics. “Despite the risk, we had to take the test because we don’t want to lose another year.” Bhandari joined the two-year program in April 2018, which would have been completed last year if the university had passed the exams on time.
Last year, the university announced that the third semester would start from the first week of April 2020. But exams were postponed indefinitely after the government imposed a lockdown from March 24 as a control measure. of the spread of the coronavirus.
Although teaching and learning activities have shifted to virtual support amid the pandemic, the university waited until December 2020, for coronavirus cases to subside, to organize physical tests.
Bhandari took the fourth semester exams the first week of August. “My friends at the bachelor’s level who went to the United States to study for a master’s degree have already signed up for a doctorate after completing their master’s degree. I will have to wait a few more months just for the masters result, ”said Bhandari. “This is because of TU’s incompetence to conduct virtual tests.”
First-year undergraduates take tests for the first time in two years, while business administration students take fourth-semester exams at a time when they would have taken sixth-semester tests had they taken place on time.
Vice Chancellor Banskota said he was in favor of moving to online testing, which has already started for some education component programs.
“We have trained our teaching and administrative staff in information technology and hired 70 IT experts to support the adoption of an online system,” he said. “We are also preparing to expand the capacity of the Internet server.
“It’s difficult to adopt a new system immediately. We are doing it gradually. “