Class VII had three sections, section A, B and C. As a matter of fact, all the classes in the school had three sections, A, B and C. Although the classes for individual sections would take place in different class rooms, but the mid term and the final term examination would take place in a separate examination hall, where all the three sections would sit in the same hall but in three different columns. The head class teacher is the one who decides the study material, the syllabus for the exams as well as designs the question papers, the class teacher is supported by the class assistants in all these activities. During the exams these assistants are also accompanied by the invigilators.
It was time for the mid term exams. The students from the three sections arrived in the examination hall, got seated and started writing their answers for the first subject. After 20 minutes, the students heard a sound, as if somebody was humming a melody. Some students rose their heads and looked towards the source of the sound; it was one of the invigilators. They looked at him and then went back to writing their exams. This continued for the rest of the exam duration, every five ten minutes, either one of the invigilators or one of the class assistants was found humming. Although it was a bit awkward but there was nothing new about this, it was happening in the past as well.
The students have to write exams for a total of five subjects. After the first subject, the students gathered after for the next subject after a gap of three days. The intermittent and random humming of the assistants and the invigilators began again. After an hour of writing the exam, one of the back benchers in Section A was sitting ducks, the question paper was a little difficult for him and he was simply looking around. His eyes fixated at a student in Section B trying to copy answers from his friend. They were whispering and the whispering starting to get louder. The backbencher, got a grin on his face, he thought the strict invigilator would now catch them cheating and they will have to face the consequences. But as and when the whispering got a little louder and was noticeable, the humming began and a few students as usual looked in the direction where the sound was coming from, no body paid any attention to the cheating students. After a few more minutes, the backbencher again noticed a different student from Section B trying to open his bag and get his notes out. He and his friend started discussing something and once again as soon as the whispering started, one of the assistants started humming and the exact same thing happened; a few students looked at the assistant for a second and back to work. The backbencher started to notice a pattern in the “usual, intermittent and random” humming. Later that day, when the bell rang, the backbencher told what he noticed to his other Section A backbenchers. They were skeptical about the observation, but were willing to see it by themselves.
The students entered their third subject exam. This time some section A backbenchers were going to conduct their own not-in-the-syllabus observation. They all started covertly looking at Section B students and noticed the similar pattern. They came to the conclusion that the invigilators and assistants who pretended to be strict and were actually very strict for section A, were actually helping students cheat in Section B.
“We need to do something about this”, said the back bencher to his fellow back benchers after the exam was over. They can’t go to the class teacher and tell this, the class teacher already hates them for a variety of reasons. They thought if the toppers complain, it would definitely make a difference. So they decided to involve the rest of the section A students. After all it was in the best interest of the toppers and the mid-range students of section A. “Will they agree to what we observed?” Another backbencher raised a question. “They can see it by themselves”, someone pointed that out. “It won’t happen that way”, claimed the first backbencher. “Why?” Asked others. “See, we get 35%, the passing marks and so we have a lot of time during the exams to see at all these things. But the toppers get more than 90% they hardly have a spare minute left. They won’t waste the time staring at Section B students” Then we could take the mid-range students in confidence first, commented someone. Yes, that’s our only hope.
They shared this info in their social media group. They were expecting toppers to just ignore the stuff but were a little surprised when even the mid-range students did not pay any attention. Turns out the mid-range students were more stressed then the toppers. They wanted to be the toppers, and were putting in their every thing for winning the race, they were the ones always writing till the very end, asking for extra sheets during the exams.
Never the less, the day for the next exam arrived. Every body came to the exam hall as usual. The backbenchers expected other students of their section to at least notice the humming and the cheating. But they didn’t. They were all too busy with their exams. They even tried to verbally prompt their section A class mates when the cheating happened and the humming overshadowed it. Rather than their class mates taking a note of their prompt, the invigilator threw one of the backbenchers out of the class for creating disturbance. The other backbenchers tried to speak up but the class teacher intervened and issued a verbal warning to all of them.
Once the exam was over, instead of trying to understand the backbenchers’ concerns, their own class mates started to preach them. “You guys should start studying rather than creating a scene, it does not look cool” The fifth and the last exam also went in the same way, nothing changed.
The backbenchers, then made a plan. They started going to each and every section A student’s house. They all went together and explained themselves and made sure that each and everyone at least knows that there was something wrong. They highlighted all the things they had found so far. Students keeping books and notes with them and copying from them. Seniors from different classing writing the exams on behalf of Section B students. They also found out that Section C students had some sort of a deal and were getting a different paper than Section A and B were getting. Their question papers were relatively easier and had less number of questions. They went to the school administration but did not get any help. Every body called them “sanki” (crazy).
Six months later when the final term arrived, it ended up to be a very difficult time for section A backbenchers. As soon as any one of them even raised their heads, the invigilator scolded them. Some of the backbenchers were thrown out of the class, warning letters were issued to some. Their parents were summoned. All hell came loose.
However, having said that, there was still a very thin silver lining. Although all the mid-range students would keep their eyes fixed on their question papers and answer sheets, but some times when somebody was stuck on a difficult question for which he/she did not know the answer to or was having a bad exam and everything in the question paper looked alien, he/she would look around. If by chance, by pure chance, the humming happened in that moment, he/she would look at the source and then straight at section B and that’s when he/she would notice the cheating. Bang!!! The backbenchers in last six months had worked really hard in making sure that every one at least knows what was going on, it was just that the other students were not willing to believe. Now at least one-mid range student saw it and now believed them.
One mid-range student for the first time sided with the backbenchers. He expressed his views in section A’s social media group. By the end of the final term exams, there were at least five to six mid-range students who were vocal about the wrongs being done with Section A. This way of students getting aware of the situation was way too slow to bring any change. It depended on luck, if any student had a bad day, he would see it but others won’t, because they won’t look around.
The students were now in Class VII, and this time the Backbenchers were not alone. Some mid-range students were also standing alongside them. They analyzed the results of their class VII exams, compared it with the Section B results. They made their findings public so that their other class mates can see them. They planned to involve students from other classes. If it was happening with them, it must be happening with others as well. They asked the students of other classes just one simple question- “Do they hum?” Yes they do! That was a big enough cue for them to keep going. They refined the way backbenchers were explaining themselves; they brought in researches explaining different ways of manipulation; the bubble of distraction, distraction by humming etc. The issue was soon escalated, the school administration was involved along with the Madam Principal. Turns out Madam Ji was not any different from the class teacher and was even worse, she not only detained a lot of back benchers but expelled some of them too.
The life of these students was made a living hell. These students were called names during the school hours, they were ostracized from the school functions and other activities. More and more efforts were being made to crush the crusade started by the backbenchers. For the first time in years, students asked for the change of principal Madam in the year end feedback survey. Although nothing changed, since the number of students asking for the change was not bigger than the number of students wanting to stay with the same principal Madam.
Some students were promoted and were now in class VIII, a lot were disqualified and expelled. The students kept their crusade ongoing. Slowly and steadily, taking all the heat. The assistants and the invigilators still continued humming, but now students weren’t looking at them, they looked at the cheating students. The number for Section A students who started realizing that they were cheated was constantly increasing. By the time, the year end feedback survey happened, the number had grown bigger than those who wanted to keep Madam Ji in place. Just to clarify, not all the students in Section B were cheaters like not all the students in Section A were clean.
For the first time in the history of the school, a clear majority of the students had wanted a change. The school trustees now had to do something. They had to change the principal, and so they did it. The trustees of the school appointed a new principle.
The New Master Ji!!
Section A back benchers were ecstatic, they were shouting slogans. Hurray!!! the good time is near! “Acche Din”
Change isn’t easy, it takes time.Caroline Kennedy
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