‘Testing times’ took a whole new meaning for 22-year-old Sandhya Kamal, an MNC employee who was attempting the first-year exam for the M.A. course she had enrolled in at the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU). What she witnessed and experienced at her exam centre — St. Joseph’s Institute for Industrial Training, Hosur — on Wednesday not only shocked her, but also left her bruised.

Having taken a week off from work to write the exams, Ms. Sandhya, on the first day of exams, was appalled to witness mass copying in the hall. When she saw it happening on the second day, she discussed the matter with her family. On the third day, her father stood outside the exam hall and took photographs of the “open-book exam”. When he was noticed, all hell broke loose.

Manhandled

Recounting her horror, Ms. Sandhya said: “One of the teachers alerted the college authorities and they chased my father, manhandled him and tried confiscating the phone. But he evaded them.”

Later, the teachers went to the exam hall and asked her to give them her father’s phone number, but she stormed out of the hall.

“Someone grabbed my hand. I turned to see four uniformed boys from the institute telling me that I was wanted back inside. I tried to pull my hand free. They dragged me towards the college and I started screaming. They took me by my hands and dragged me across the road and into a gully (bylane). They tried to lift me off the ground by holding my legs. I screamed and struggled. I tried to kick them away. Nothing seemed to work,” she said.

Soon, a policeman at the centre came to her rescue and questioned the invigilators, who tried to shift the blame on to her, accusing her of cheating in the exam.

Shaken

Badly shaken by the incident, Ms. Sandhya, instead of writing the fourth exam on Friday, went to the Hosur police station to file a complaint. She said, “I have never felt so helpless in my life but I decided to speak about this as it is wrong. Ironically, it happened to me when I was trying to get something as basic as education. I am not going to write the rest of my exams. This certainly is not education.”

She also pointed out several discrepancies she witnessed in the exam system, such as a delayed start to the exam on both days, and the college authorities charging “hall expenses” of Rs. 500. When she objected, one of the invigilators allegedly told her that that they were “helping” students to use textbooks and it was an open-book exam. “The second exam on June 17 too took place in a similar manner. As if textbook aid wasn’t enough, acquaintances of candidates came into the exam hall and discussed answers,” she said.

Tip of the iceberg

Reacting to the incident, Chambi Puranik, retired Dean of the KSOU and former member of the Distance Education Council, said the varsity had expanded to the extent of become unwieldy. “Study centre status should be given with care. Also, only if the university has the capacity to monitor them should more centres be granted permission. This incident is only the tip of the iceberg. The stakeholders should remember that only if the sanctity of evaluation is maintained shall the objective of distance education be intact,” he said.

He added that the KSOU should review the existing study centres. “This girl has taken a bold step, but many more such incidents may have gone unnoticed. A proper monitoring mechanism is needed.”

VC cancels licence

M.G. Krishnan, Vice-Chancellor, KSOU, told The Hindu on Friday that the licence to the study centre was cancelled on Thursday after he was informed of the incident. He also urged the student to report the incident to him, so that a police complaint can be filed against those who manhandled her.

Asked if measures are being taken to curb malpractices in the 172 study centres, he said he was trying his best since he took over about five months ago.