Mumbai: Senior citizens step up to help special needs students write their exams

Updated: Apr 23, 2018, 07:58 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Seeking to solve dearth of writers for visually-challenged children, retired professionals are doing the job in the absence of young volunteers

Sudha Gokhle
Sudha Gokhle

A group of senior citizens in the city has steered post-retirement plans the write way, by coming forward to be exam writers for candidates who require them. While the state government's plan to have a writers' bank is still underway, these retirees are allaying the exam blues for special needs students.

Subhash Gupta
Subhash Gupta

The lack of an adequate number of exam writers has been a major issue for special needs students. Moreover, there is no uniform body to co-ordinate and connect candidates to volunteers. After getting several requests to solve this problem, the state government had decided to form a writers' bank in 2017, with plans to make a consolidated list available on an online portal. Sadly, that project has still not come to fruition.

Suniti Desai. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Suniti Desai. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Time put to great use
But students needn't worry, as seniors and retired professionals are ready to help. One such senior is Sudha Gokhale, a retired banker from Thane, who has been regularly volunteering as a writer for some time now. She has been associated with work for visually challenged individuals since the time she was working. But due to work commitments, it was not possible for her to give her time as writer.

"Back then, I would only be able to do the kind of work that was possible in my free time, such as recording notes. After retirement, however, I have a lot of time on my hands and thought it can be put to great use if I could help these students appear for their examination," said Gokhale.

Need writers' bank
For retired HR professional Suniti Desai, 79, this started a year ago when she read about the dearth of writers in the newspaper. Since then, she has volunteered for a few exams. "I have always wanted to do something but never had a direction. But when I called students after reading about the requirement of writers, I have continued to be associated with this work as it is a lovely feeling."

Speaking about how real the dearth of writers is, Desai said, "It was a very disheartening experience once when I saw a few visually challenged students seeking writers near the gate of the college while I was waiting with the students I was volunteering for. It was just a few minutes before the examination. Such is their plight. The government has to start a project like writers' bank so that they can have easy access to those willing to volunteer. This will ensure uniformity in regulations too so that there won't be any last minute changes."

Another retiree who moonlights as a writer is Subhash Gupta, 60, who was a marketing professional. He said, "After the first time I wrote for a visually challenged candidate, I have continued the process as it is a good experience. Not only do I get to use my free time much productively, it is also a great feeling to be able to help."

Seniors are of great help
This is also coming in handy for students, as the seniors rarely cancel last minute. Ummehaani Bagasrawala, who is visually challenged and runs an organisation which helps students connect with writers said, "The senior citizens cannot go for all exams, as for certain ones, there are strict rules allowing only those persons as writers who are younger to the student appearing for the paper. But for regular, college-level exams, as well as professionals exams, the senior citizens are really a great help."

However, Bagasrawala said, "There is a general dearth of people willing to volunteer as writers. With exam time-tables and centres being declared at last moment, there are cancellations by writers as they have prior responsibilities. There is a great need of a writers' bank to resolve such issues. A centralised process will help."

Also read: SSC exams: Despite new regulation, students with special needs struggle to find older writers

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