HSC examinee Ahnaf Hossain, accompanied by his uncle Zia Ahsan, left their home in South Banasree early at 8 O'clock sharp in the morning to attend his first day of examinations scheduled for 11 O'clock at BAF Shaheen College.
Although one hour is usually enough to travel the distance of about 12 kilometres by personal car, it took nearly three hours for them due to heavy traffic congestion on the roads. They reached the examination centre just a few minutes before the exam.
"Our tension was notching up every minute at the eleventh hour, afraid of being late. Ahnaf looked very nervous and kept asking about the time," Zia Ahsan said when he talked to The Business Standard on Sunday afternoon.
"The gridlock-induced anxiety might have a bad impact on my nephew's exam. I don't know why the road situation is terrible on such an important public examination day. This is very pathetic," he added.
Rajuk Uttara Model college student Ahnaf is one of thousands of HSC examinees in Dhaka, who struggled hard to reach their test centres on time when the entire city got stuck in heavy traffic on Sunday morning.
The Higher Secondary Certificate or HSC and equivalent exams for academic session 2021-22 started with the Bangla 1st paper at 2,649 centres across the country.
Some 15,255 out of 12.03 lakh students were absent on the first day, with the highest 3,509 absentees in Dhaka. Students appeared for the exam from 9,181 institutions under 11 education boards. The number of HSC examinees in Dhaka city was 1.2 lakh and test centres were 64, according to the Dhaka Education Board.
"We do not want such gridlock on roads which badly hampers the' psychological condition of examinees just before the exam," said Ziaul Kabir Dulu, president of Obhibhabok Okya Forum – an association of guardians of school and college-going students.
"The authorities should be more active to keep the movement of examinees easy," he told The Business Standard (TBS).
Contacted, Dhaka Education Board Chairman Tapan Kumar Sarker told TBS they requested the traffic department of police to take proper initiatives for the hassle-free movement of examinees. "However, there were traffic jams in some areas of Dhaka on the first day of the exams, which was unexpected."
"We set the exam time from 11am to 1pm so that it wouldn't conflict with office opening and closing time, 8am and 3pm. However, an excessive number of guardians on the first day made the traffic situation worse," he said.
Assistant Commissioner of police (traffic) of Mohakhali zone, Ashfaq Ahmed, said the traffic in the Mohakhali area was high since morning, but it became normal gradually. "We tried our best to control the traffic congestion so that HSC examinees could reach their centres on time."
Deputy Commissioner (traffic) of Ramna Zone, Md Zainul Abedin, told TBS they also saw severe traffic congestion in their area at 10am.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Dipu Moni, while visiting the Begum Badrunnessa Government Girls' College centre at 10:30am, requested guardians to leave exam centres area immediately after dropping off their children so other incoming students do not face any inconvenience.
She added that exams are being held in a good environment across the country and there is no report of question paper leakage.
"We will thwart any attempt to leak question papers and punitive action will be taken against those found guilty of that."
On coaching centre closure, Dipu Moni said, "Instruction is in place to keep coaching centres closed during exam time but it is difficult, given the fact that one coaching centre offers different types of tutoring at the same time."
Responding to a question from reporters, the education minister said, "We had planned to hold the board exams at an earlier time this year but it was not possible due to devastating floods in some parts of the country."
"Next year, we plan to hold the exams even earlier. Exams might be temporarily stopped in case of a natural disaster in that particular area, but other boards will continue with exams on the scheduled date," she added.