Amidst the lockdown enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 90 per cent answer papers have been sent by post, new submission centres have been set up and examination-related work has been declared as ‘essential services’ to ensure results are declared on time. The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) claimed that despite the hurdles that arose from the present health crisis, the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Class 10 and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) Class 12 board examination assessment has not halted.
Answer papers were stuck at custodian centres because there was no mode of transport due to the lockdown. Examiners could not visit the custodian centres, nor could the papers be delivered to them using trucks. The state board officials then decided to send answer papers by post so that the examiners could correct them at home.
Sandeep Sangve, secretary of MSBSHSE, Mumbai division, said, "We sent almost 90 per cent out of the 50 lakh answer papers by post. We also reimbursed taxi or auto rickshaw fares and public transport costs when teachers tried to commute to the centres to collect answer papers for assessment at home."
Moderators have been allowed to submit answer papers at the nearby submission centres to avoid travelling. Also, the number of submission centres have been increased. Sangve added, "We allowed moderators to submit answer papers at any nearby submission centre instead of travelling to specific centres. We established new centres as the collection of moderated papers is an important step because maximum moderators are in the red zone in Mumbai." Also, moderators were allowed to submit papers at the Mumbai divisional board office at Vashi.
Exam staff has been tagged as ‘essential services’ so that the state board office can work with maximum manpower. Sangve said, "Just like other offices, we had to work with minimum staff. Some teachers and staff had travelled or were stuck at their villages, so we had to work with reduced manpower. But now, we have gained emergency services status in order to complete exam-related work while maintaining safety measures."
Parents and students must understand that the lockdown affected the SSC and HSC assessment process, moderation, transportation, calculation and collection of answer papers, claimed Sunanda Mukund, an examiner. Mukund said, "We have tried our best to complete assessment work keeping the interest of students as a priority."
Sangve added, "Our staff and teachers were scared to commute with a fear of contracting COVID-19. But despite the hurdles and minimum staff, we have tried to find solutions to keep the assessment work going with the help of teachers, staff, state government, municipal corporation, police and district education officers."
A state-board moderator in Mumbai tested COVID-19 positive 15 days ago, revealed Sangve. Sangve added, "The moderator had completed half of the moderation work when she tested positive. Fortunately, she recovered and returned home two days ago. Now, we have given her an option to complete pending moderation work or we can allot other moderators to pitch-in and help. The health and safety of our teachers and staff is priority."