Some scribes have little knowledge of the subject when they volunteer for the task

Friday’s Tamil paper-I of the Higher Secondary examination was a breeze for R. Devan, a visually impaired student, but when he looks back, there were many mistakes he could have avoided.

For instance, in the four-mark question, the scribe wrote “Indiranai kondradhu” instead of “Indiranai kondadhu”. “It was when she was reading through the answers that I pointed out the error,” says Devan, referring to his scribe, a mathematics teacher. “She was slow in writing and I was running short of time, making it difficult for me to do the final revision,” says the class XII student.

The quality of scribes is a common grouse among students with visual impairments, who meet them just before the exam. Some of the scribes have little knowledge of the subject when they volunteer or have received little orientation on their role.

The welfare of the differently abled persons department recently wrote to the department of school education to take corrective steps in selecting and appointing scribes for visually impaired students appearing for the class X and XII Board exams. It sought the allotting of qualified persons having knowledge of English words and technical knowledge of subjects such as Science, Mathematics and Accountancy. But, schools say very little has changed over the years.

In a letter dated February 26, 2013, the department of disability affairs under the ministry of social justice and empowerment had sent guidelines to all States for conducting written examination for persons with disabilities.

A total of 48 higher secondary and 19 high school students are appearing for the Board examination from the Government Higher Secondary School for the Blind, Poonamallee. A majority of students have complaints about the scribes having little knowledge of symbols and other technical facts used in Mathematics and Accountancy papers, says a former principal of the school.

“Teachers need a lot of practice before being sent as scribes or the effort of students goes wasted,” says Margaret Sulojana Bai, principal of the Little Flower Higher Secondary School for the Blind, adding that handwriting also plays a role.

The school education department follows the practice of allotting secondary grade teachers as scribes. According to C. Govindakrishnan, founder of Nethrodaya — a voluntary organisation for visually challenged, while the allowance for scribes was increased from Rs. 150 to Rs. 250 the quality is at an “all time low”. Finding willing scribes is even more difficult for students from rural areas, he says.

“There are about 1,655 visually challenged students in the State (classes I to XII) but a break up of how many are taking the Board examination is never provided by the school education department,” he says.

Nethrodaya, which sent the representation to the welfare of differently abled persons department, is upset that the online application for the higher secondary school examination was not inclusive enough. “There is no question asked if the student needs a scribe,” said Mr. Govindakrishnan.

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