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50 'exam switch' students saved.

Byline: BEGENA P PRADEEP

OFFICIALS stepped in last night to rescue around 50 students who faced missing vital exams when the venue was switched from Bahrain to Dubai at the last-minute. Parents and students lobbied officials at the Indian Embassy yesterday, in the hope of getting the venue switched back to Bahrain.

The secondary school students, aged 16 to 18, had enrolled with the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), based in New Delhi, India and run by the Indian Government's Human Resources Development Ministry.

The students enrolled online through the institute's website during July and August last year and each paid $750 (around BD282) in examination fees.

But parents and students say they only discovered on Wednesday that the venue of the exams, which will begin next Tuesday and continue to the second week of next month, had been switched to Dubai.

They said it was too late to get visas for Dubai, or for parents to arrange accommodation.

But Indian Embassy officials said last night that the exams would be conducted in Bahrain.

It emerged that the venue was switched after the embassy told NIOS that it did not have facilities to host the exams in Bahrain.

But a spokesman said the embassy had contacted NIOS after the parents complained and agreed to find a hall for the exams here, to avoid a crisis.

He said some students would sit the exam at the embassy and others at the Global Institute for Management Studies.

NIOS will have to find an alternative venue when it holds similar exams next year, said the official.

Parents and students were relieved, after early protesting that the switch to Dubai was a disaster.

If the students miss the exams, they will have to wait until October for another chance and this would put back their chances of getting into colleges back in India by another year.

Parents and students say they were coached by the Indian Academy and the Ocean Institute, both in Umm Al Hassam and blamed the institutes for not informing them earlier.

However the Indian Academy denies any responsibility, saying that it did not coach any of the students and was not involved with NIOS.

Parent K V Dhananjayan said last-minute switch by NIOS, announced only on its website, made it impossible to make arrangements.

"The reason they have stated is administrative problems, which they don't explain," he said.

"The students were coached by both the Indian Academy and the Ocean Institute, though they refuse to take up any responsibility."

Parent Lloyd Gomez said that the parents' biggest worry was how their children would live in a foreign place for over a month all by themselves, if they were forced to go alone.

Parent K M Varghese said the hall (exam entry) tickets, issued by Indian Embassy 10 days ago, stated the venue as Bahrain.

"If we were informed at least a month ago, something could have been arranged," he said.

One student told the GDN that he and others went to see Indian Academy director Elamurugu Soupramanien at his home yesterday, but were denied help.

"He wouldn't answer our calls on his mobile and so we chose to go to his home," said the student, who did not want to be named.

"However, he refused to even acknowledge our problem.

"We are actually students of the Indian Academy and pay fees to them, but we get a receipt from the Ocean Institute.

"We heard that the academy had some problem with its licence and was not allowed to admit students.

"They have also rented some classrooms at the Ocean Institute, due to lack of space at the academy."

But Mr Soupramanien said the youngsters were not the academy's students.

"Some teachers who earlier taught at the Indian Academy now work for the Ocean Institute," he said.

"So, those who study at the Ocean Institute think they are our students."

He also said that the academy had not been an authorised centre in Bahrain for NIOS since 2005.

"I was the Bahrain co-ordinator for NIOS from 2002 to 2005 but have nothing to do with it now," said Mr Soupramanien.

He denied that the academy rents classrooms at the Ocean Institute, saying they had nothing to do with each other.

"The students need to contact the NIOS and not me," said Mr Soupramanien.

No-one from Ocean Institute was available for comment.

begena@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Jun 11, 2008
Words:749
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