TAMIL NADU

Exams amid emotional turmoil

CHENNAI APRIL 9 . Even with the court stay on the proposed demolition of the country's oldest women's college extended by a day, students of the Queen Mary's College will not be able to take a breather since another problem now looms large.

When the girls arrived at the college at 8.30 this morning, they were greeted by barricaded gates and a notice declaring a holiday till the April 23, when hall tickets would be issued and examinations begin.

While they ignored the barred entrance, and browbeat policemen into opening the gates, saying they would jump over the walls or halt traffic on the road, the notice was not so easy to dismiss. However, writing the examinations is not going to be as simple as just picking up the hall ticket and sliding into a chair.

All buildings on the campus have been locked, leaving the students with nowhere quiet to sit and revise. Though each department has a library, besides the main college library, it can't be accessed. For, the libraries, along with laboratories and classrooms, have been barricaded.

A number of the lecturers today were seated on the ground with sheaves of answersheets and books. They say it is ludicrous to expect the girls to write examinations, amidst all emotional turmoil and chaos.

"They haven't been able to finish their model exams, lab work been left unfinished, projects are incomplete — how can they be expected to write exams?" demands one lecturer.

Though most of the students spent today studying quietly in the shade, this is a far from ideal `revision holiday'.

Besides the constant inflow of visitors, periodical pep talks and the blazing sun, they are all under tremendous pressure as they nervously wait for the verdict.

According to a lecturer, at least 1,000 girls will definitely drop out of the QMC, if it does not survive. A plea from the fisherfolk, under the banners of the `Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Union' and `The Fisher Movements Co-ordination of Tamil Nadu' underlines this prophecy.

Addressed to the Chief Justice of the High Court, it states almost 400 of their girls are studying in the QMC and if the college is shifted, they will be forced to leave and thus lose their one chance to gain education.

Practically all students say their parents chose the college because it's an all-woman set-up and finishes by 2.25 p.m. Many girls stay far away from the city, if the college is shifted and classes are held from 1.15 to 5.45 p.m., continuing their education will be a struggle.

A student talks of how her parents agreed to send her to the QMC only because it was a women's college. "If I have to go to Presidency, they'll just say `stay at home. There's no need for you to study'. I want to finish and do a Master's but I won't even be able to complete my undergraduation."

The demolition will also end the QMC's IAS coaching centre, which trains 60 girls and the `Social Service League School' on the campus, which teaches more than 140 children from neighbouring slums.

Today, the CPI leader, R. Nallakannu, and a large group of alumni visited the college to express their support for the girls. With about whopping 40,000 signatures protesting the demolition, the Save QMC Movement, at least, is growing from strength to strength.