A Hong Kong university has expressed deep regret after a lecturer refused to make flexible arrangements over an online exam for a student in Myanmar
who pointed to internet blackouts enforced by the military following a coup two months ago.
The humanities student, who studies at the Education University of Hong Kong and had been taking virtual lessons, said her lecturer dismissed her concerns over attending the exam after the Easter holiday in April, citing “fairness” concerns.
The military seized control of Myanmar on February 1 and has cracked down violently on the near-daily protests, detaining thousands and killing at least 550 people, including dozens of children. After cutting off internet access nightly, the junta tightened its grip on the flow of information on Friday by ordering telecoms operators to shut down wireless broadband services entirely, several news outlets reported.
Local students studying with overseas institutions have been struggling with the curbs. The EdU student wrote emails to the linguistics and modern language studies lecturer last month saying she might not be able to log in on time for an upcoming sociolinguistics exam and asking for more flexible arrangements.
“As you are aware, I have network issues due to my special circumstances,” the student wrote, according to screenshots of email correspondences. “I will try my best to be punctual, but I may not be able to start the exam at 8.30am sharp.”
But the lecturer, who told the student “we must treat everybody the same”, asked her not to “worry too much” while rejecting her request.
“There are quite a number of students who have similar technical problem [sic] as you do (no one cannot guarantee there is no network problem). I am afraid we could not provide any special arrangement for any individual for this reason,” the lecturer said.
The lecturer added: “I would recommend you to wake up earlier and test the system before the official starting time”.
The student, who described the lecturer’s response as lacking empathy, later tweeted: “#Burmese students located either in #Burma or overseas at this moment are under immense stress. Teachers should do better, especially when they’re trying to train students in pedagogy.”
A EdU spokeswoman told the Post the school “deeply regrets the case”, adding it had contacted the student directly to offer necessary assistance, including flexible examination arrangements and other academic support.
“The university reiterates that it attaches great importance to the well-being and safety of students. Faculty members should take into account every student’s specific circumstances while ensuring academic quality,” the spokeswoman said.
A student representative from the humanities faculty said the course’s coordinator eventually agreed to adjust the exam time and offered other alternatives for the student, although the student said the lecturer did not offer an apology.
The lecturer was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
Last month, a maths professor at York University in Toronto was widely criticised after he threatened to fail a student from Myanmar who asked for an exam extension because of internet connection problems, with the institution later saying it had accommodated the request.