Window of Opportunity?: Stop Mocking the ‘Cheaters’ of Bihar

By Jitendra Kumar,

All day today photographs of parents and guardians helping their wards to cheat were in circulation on social media and news sites. This has unleashed a wave of ridicule targeted at not only Bihar’s education system but also at students appearing for those exams, and generally Biharis across the country. The Bihari students have been silenced and shamed.

Fortunately or not, I’ve been a full time student at JNU, Jamia, DU, Himachal University, Magadh University and IGNOU too. Thus I’m neither impressed – nor aghast – when you show me the pictures suggesting only students from Bihar cheat. In fact these are the poor students who haven’t learned to use WiFi yet.

Bihar Cheting

They are those unlucky students whose teacher guesses ten questions, of which any five are bound to make it to the question paper. But they are not those students for whom 30 marks are assigned for internal assessment. Their parents are still too ‘backward’ to put them in schools which only provide general marking. It is this ‘backwardness’ led by poverty which brings out the courage to clamber up the walls up to the fourth floor. Actually, it would be better to see these parents as the examinees. What prompts them to risk life and limb? The answer to this would never be published. The visuals of the ‘answer’ would never be published.

There might be several girls whose marriages are bundled with the fate of their marksheet. The government hardly provides any job opportunity, but if they manage to pass the examination, their chances of getting a decent and respectable bridegroom increases. Their parents are eager that their daughters pass the examination – they will have to manage less dowry. Every single additional mark managed by the girl would relieve the tension of her father in direct proportion. This daredevilry of the parents not only shows them helping to cheat but the necessity of a marksheet.

Thus the eagerness comes to climb up to the fourth floor. There might be several students who are not necessarily dumb but only higher marks can make them eligible to get their admissions in colleges or sit in competitive exams. Once they are out applying for their admissions, they have to compete equally with others coming from different schools, different background and different boards. This ‘different’ stands for privileged. When education is already sold out to private players, and seat availability in government colleges woefully less than required, can we blame the students?

Clearly, they are not the ones who can afford private collages or coaching centres like those in Kota. Thus the eagerness comes to climb up fourth floor. Sensational photographs definitely tickle us, but sadly there will be no visual archive of the way in which they live in temporary arrangements in cities for this exam. Up to ten students stay in one small room hired for examinations, bringing rice and other important items from their villages. Failing in these examinations scares them more than climbing up or the police’s lathi charge.

In any case, this education doesn’t provide them jobs necessarily but mere social status due to over-valorized Matric pass status. The risk is for that as well. Thus the eagerness to climb up to fourth floor. These people are definitely frightened of heights, police’s lathicharge and even a lock up in the worst scenario – but their children got a Siksha Mitra instead of a competent teacher. ‘Homework’ for them has implied helping their parents in household chores and earning extra income. In classes before lunch, most of them dream about the day’s menu of mid day meal. Thus these parents are not helping their children to cheat but trying to compensate for what they actually deserved, but never got.

A Tenth-pass certificate is not only a result of an examination but its a competition between those who have and those who don’t. And these parents are only too aware of that. Anyhow tomorrow, they have to compete on ‘equal’ terms with those who had better facilities, teachers, books, food with no worries.

In 1996, there was an attempt to scuttle down cheating attempts. Less than 15% pass results were published across Bihar. That also, mostly third division. Those third division passed students were cream of the society back then. But what happened later! Most of them were denied those opportunities in vacancies due to marks.

If I were one among those parents, I too would have climbed up to the top floor too for a better future for my child. When teachers to education ministers are devoid of ethics or empathy, don’t put the blame on children. They are only kids learning to survive.

Writer is a student of JNU and hails from Bihar.