For the last few days, college union members have been conducting several rounds of meetings to figure out a solution to deal with this sudden stir in response to the abrupt college reopening notice. Delhi University released a notice on 9 February 2022 directing colleges to resume offline classes from 17 February with no proper guidelines that are to be maintained on campus.
Today, I arranged a meeting with my department faculty members and realised that as much as we think them to be the face of Delhi University, they don’t have anything in their hands. It is sad and unfortunate. Teachers and students alike are on the same boat. No one knows how this relocation process is going to take place, and if proper safety measures will be available in colleges. How will the university compensate students who can’t afford to arrange for travel tickets that are currently priced at upwards of Rs 5,000 and accommodation that start at Rs 25,000?
The situation is worsening to such an extent that students are being forced to pay huge amounts of money to book their Paying Guest accommodation slots. I have heard students saying, “Education is becoming so expensive that I have to put everything at stake to attend classes”. This kind of statement from a student studying in a government university reflects the gravity of the matter.
Talking to the faculty members, I gathered that as much as they are ready to help us and accommodate the needs of every student, the reality is that there is not much they can do because the university has ‘norms’ that are to be followed.
Right to affordable education
We asked our teachers if we can have a hybrid mode of education, many teachers agreed but then again comes the question of infrastructure. In a college of around 6,000 students, we don’t have stable WIFI. I remember my days as a first-year student when even calling someone from the campus was a far-fetched idea. We hear of government policies talking about creating a ‘digital university’. At least give us a stable internet connection first?
This year, the budgetary allocation for education has supposedly increased by Rs 11,054 crore. But we don’t have facilities in government-run universities to foster a hybrid mode at least for the months students are relocating and settling down in Delhi. Where exactly is this money going? We have not been able to fully cope with the prevailing digital divide yet and now we are forced to face another havoc. What have we done to deserve this?
The Delhi government had said that asking for consent from the students/parents is mandatory before calling them to join offline classes. I know that Delhi University runs under the central government but tell me one thing, will Covid ask me which government I fall under before it infects me? In a university of more than 25,000 students, how can decisions be taken based on what a bunch of 100 protesting students say or do? No student groups or protestors asked for our opinions before threatening to set themselves on fire.
I am not denying the exclusivity of online classes. They can never be a solution for long-term teaching. However, going for such a reckless decision without any consideration of the level of preparedness in colleges, availability of resources and socio-economic conditions of students is representative of the dire administrative incompetency.
I have the right to affordable and equitable educational opportunities. It is unfortunate that the administrative lacuna is failing us.
The author is a student at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. Views are personal.