THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Manjusha, a totally blind girl doing her graduation in Malayalam, has her own e-mail id. She is computer-literate and can do all her communication through e-mail. Yet, she cannot write her exams on her own, because there is no provision for a visually impaired student to write her exams with a computer or for computer-aided evaluation under the existing rules.
‘’Last year, I had to write a paper on Kerala culture. The questions were all easy, but I was provided a scribe who had no speed. It was disappointing, but I at least got a scribe in time,’’ said Manjusha, a native of Kasargod.
Not every blind student is computer-literate as Manjusha. But all of them share a common problem - shortage of scribes to write their exams for them. Even after studying hard for their exams, many of them have to face situations when the scribes fail to turn up, leaving them in total helplessness.
The worst case scenario is with Sanskrit, a subsidiary subject for Malayalam students. As it is, this mother of all Indian languages, have few takers now. ‘’The University insists that the scribe should a person one class lower than the blind student. But the first year students just learn the alphabets and would never be able to write the Sanskrit exam for a second year student,’’ said Ramachandran, associate professor at the University College here.
With the camaraderie of student life slowly ebbing out from colleges, remuneration for scribes is also a major problem. ‘’No one writes for free. The scribes ask for Rs 400 per exam and the University just gives Rs 50 per exam. I have paid scribes out of my pocket because if not I stand to lose a year,’’ said Rethimol from Alappuzha who is doing her second year post-graduation in Malayalam.
With a dozen papers to clear a year, the visually-impaired students would have to shell out a huge sum just for their exams. ‘’If they would raise the amount to at least Rs 250 per exam, we might be able to find scribes from other colleges. At least students in need of money would be willing to be scribes for the blind,’’ said Ramachandran.
Jancy, a second year Music student, said that finding scribes for outstation students like her is more difficult than for students who study in their hometown. ‘’I am a native of Thodupuzha with hardly any relatives here in Thiruvananthapuram. Many of the blind students at the University Hostel with me are from North Kerala and it is near impossible for us to find scribes outside of college,’’ said Jancy.
Ramachandran opined that if the scribe system does not work anymore, the least the University could do was to allow these blind students to write their exams in braille itself, so that it gives them the control over how they answer the exam.