Even as investigations are in full swing to recover the stolen SSC answer sheets, exasperated students who gave their board exams last month are asking the same question that the city cops are flummoxed about -where are the answer papers?

Giving your board examinations the first time around is daunting enough, but the mere thought of sitting in a stuffy school hall and repeating the exams is even more terrifying! That's just one of the many thoughts going through the minds of students who appeared for their Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams this year, after it recently came to light that almost 516 answer sheets have gone missing from a school in the city .

On April 3, an unidentified man, posing as a scrap dealer, entered the office of Isra Vidyalaya's principal and stole the unchecked SSC answer sheets of three subjects -History , Science and Sanskrit.These were given to the school by the Maharashtra State Board for evaluation after the exams concluded on April 1.The school management has registered a complaint with the local police station and since then, cops have been investigating the case.

ANGRY STUDENTS BLAME AUTHORITIES FOR NEGLIGENCE

According to Dattatray Jagtap, chairperson of the Divisional Board, if the papers aren't found before the date of announcement of the results, they may consider calculating the students' average marks from other subjects and give that score for their missing papers.Though authorities are confident about recovering the answer sheets, students are dreading the worst. Dhruv Dubey, a student of Gyan Kendra Secondary School, Andheri, says, “Such an incident should not have happened in the first place.Where does this leave us? We have worked very hard the entire year and now, our future has been jeopardised.“

 

Dhruv adds, “If the Board plans on marking us on our average scores, many of us will suffer. These marks play a key role in deciding which stream we can opt for in college and that determines our future.“ His classmate, Neil Fernandes, shares his sentiments. He says, “I just hope the papers are found. The culprit should be punished for playing with the future of so many students.There is no way we will give a reexamination. And if they plan on marking us on our overall scores, they should give students additional grace marks, because everyone has worked very hard the entire year.“

Ritisha Sawant, a student of Vani Vidyalaya, Mulund, is upset that she may not get admission in the college of her choice. She says, “My whole vacation is ruined. I was planning to go on a trip, but with this news, I am tensed and depressed. It's convenient for students who didn't study . In fact, it's a boon for them. I am planning to pursue Science and I need high grades if I want to join a college of my choice. But if the answers sheets are not found and we are graded based on our other subjects, it won't be possible. I might have to change my stream.“ Another SSC student, Pooja Chettiar blames the authorities for their carelessness. “It shows how irresponsible the authorities are. We don't want average marks.What if I had scored higher in the three papers that went missing? We want at least 90 per cent marks in those,“ she says.

PARENTS, TEACHERS ALSO AGHAST

It's not just students who are in a limbo. Even parents and teachers are worried about the outcome.Mugdha Shetkar, whose daughter Snigdha appeared for her Boards this year, believes grading students on the basis of their marks in other subjects will be unfair. “My daughter's Sanskrit paper was excellent, and she is expecting full marks. If they are unable to track the paper, they will have to take an average of her marks. This is unfortunate because my daughter may not score as much in other subjects. There is a chance this can bring her overall percentage down. Even if they manage to retrieve the papers, they will give the marks only if they believe the answer sheets haven't been tampered with. This is scary and I am very tensed.“

Lata Popat, a school teacher who corrects SSC papers, believes that every student has weak and strong subjects and this system of grading will be very ambiguous. “When it comes to SSC results, even a single mark matters and can cost a student a seat in the college of their choice.“ Raji Chettiar, a teacher and mother of a Class X student, adds, “Many students can go into depression, it's a serious issue. Even half a mark matters a lot and the percentage can go down. Many have studied hard the whole year to get a good score.So giving them average marks is a big injustice. The authorities have goofed up big time.“

FATE OF STUDENTS IN THE HANDS OF COPS

With the results expected to be announced in June, authorities will need to act fast. Officials from the Board are tight-lipped on how they plan to solve this crisis. A source from the Board tells BT, “It is not possible that all these sheets are lost. It is an internal issue from the school's end and the investigation is on. Students will not have to reappear for the exams as we are trying our best to find those missing answer sheets. In case we are unable to do so, we will decide on our next move and come up with a solution.“

Adarsh Shukla, trustee of Isra Vidyalaya, says, “The cops are still investigating. We are also carrying out our own investigation. We are confident we will be able to track the paper.“

According to DCP Kirankumar Chavan (Zone XII), though the investigation is still on, they haven't been able to zero in on any suspect yet. “The Board will decide what should be done in case the papers aren't found. We are doing our best and covering all angles. Keeping the future of the kids in mind, we are trying to solve the case before the results are announced,“ he shares.

Given the gravity of the situation, it is likely that the principal may face action if a case of negligence is proved against him. But amidst all this chaos and uncertainty, it seems like students have got the raw end of the deal.