Shortage of scribes for visually impaired students in Chennai is causing growing concern – Edexlive
A few days ago, visually impaired students in Chennai faced difficulties due to a shortage of scribes for their semester exams. The situation has escalated so much that it prompted a written announcement from the city’s Presidency College calling for scribes, which was recently posted on social media.
A report on the matter by IANS also mentioned that a head teacher at St John’s College, located at Tirunelveli in Chennai, informed about the college’s difficulty in procuring scribes even though there are only 17 visually impaired students who need them. The college hasn’t held any exams for the past two years and before that it hadn’t faced this problem because scholars used to help visually impaired students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels .
Talk to Edex LiveDr. V Sivaraman, Associate Professor of English at Presidency College, explains the whole issue.
“Our college has the highest number of visually impaired students in Chennai. There are around 100 visually impaired students studying in the departments of English, Tamil, History and Political Science at UG and PG levels. Two years ago, we used to have academic M Phil and PhD who acted as scribes for these students. As we have a large number of research programs here, we have never faced a shortage of scribes. But this year, the M Phil course was scrapped and none of the departments had any PhDs or undergraduates to spare. So we had to outsource scribes,” he said.
Problems persist in colleges
“The problem is not just with our college. Queen Mary’s College and Nandanam Arts College are the other two government colleges in Chennai that have a large number of visually impaired students. There is a shortage of scribes everywhere and we need to recruit volunteers from outside,” said Dr Sivaraman.
The professor also said that the scribe allowance given to the volunteers was not enough. “The Department of School Education pays Rs 300 for a scribe to sit the Class X or XII Board Examinations. This is the standard amount sanctioned by the government. But the colleges pay a meager sum of 100 rupees to the scribes. This amount is also paid from tuition fees, when it should be paid by the government,” he said.
Dr Sivaraman suggested that there should be a common government portal for scribes, where the exam schedule should be posted at least 15 days in advance, to make it easier for colleges to provide volunteers to students in need. The State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities should create such a portal and look into the matter. “We need 30 to 35 scribes on average per day during exams. And the same volunteers cannot come every day,” he added.
The IANS report stated that only 15 to 20 students needed scribes to write in English, while the rest of the students wrote the exams in Tamil. However, most of the available scribes were comfortable writing in English. Professor Sivaraman also informed, “When we call for volunteers, they come in abundance during the holidays. Sometimes there is a surplus. But there is a shortage of working days.
The most essential point
“The most important thing is that the people in charge, including the director and the controller of examinations, must be sensitized to the needs of visually impaired students. They must understand their difficulties. Very often when we have approached the people in the lead regarding the issue of the scribe, they have reflected a casual attitude towards the issue,” the professor said.
“There is also an absence of visually impaired teachers and representatives in colleges. At the Presidential College, there are six visually impaired teachers. I myself am visually impaired. We coordinate with authorities regarding issues faced by visually impaired students. The colleges must be made aware and approach us, ask our opinion on these questions. We have to be involved in the decisions,” he added.
In conclusion, Dr. Sivaraman says, “The long-term solution is that computer literacy needs to be accessible to visually impaired students so that they can type in their own answers. But the current infrastructure in colleges is not sufficient to support this.