New Delhi: For 22-year-old Neelam Firdaus Khan, a third-year undergraduate student of St Stephen’s College, the past 10 months of online classes have been nothing short of a nightmare.
Khan lives in Kashmir’s Baramulla district and has been attending her classes using 2G internet because of the continued restrictions on mobile internet in the union territory. “It has been extremely difficult. Many times the videos get stuck. It has definitely been a setback for me,” she told ThePrint.
Now, with Delhi University set to tentatively reopen colleges for final-year science students who need to complete laboratory work in February, Khan, who is pursuing a degree in physics, has opted to go back to college despite widespread fears of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are the least vulnerable group. If we take proper precautions then hopefully everything will be fine. It is more alarming that we are losing out on our education,” she explained, adding that she has had no laboratory practice for nearly a year now.
DU colleges, like other educational institutions across the country, had shut down due to the pandemic in March last year and since then, students have been attending online classes.
While several students, like Khan, are keen to go back to college, there are still underlying concerns about Covid. Delhi has reported more than 6.3 lakh cases of the virus so far, and is still reporting at least 200 cases daily.
Offline classes now waste of time, say DU final year students
Not all DU students, however, want to return to colleges, even for laboratory work.
Khan’s classmate Ivanna Sangma, 21, who is from Shillong, has also been battling insufficient data for online classes, as well as lack of privacy. To top it all, she also got infected with Covid-19. But she will not be returning to her college.
According to Sangma, “The college is not providing any accommodation, that is something I will have to arrange by myself. And if anything happens, the college will not be responsible. Lastly, I will be so far away from home. At least if something happens here my family members are there to take care of me.”
Students from other courses also said they will avoid physical classes if DU chooses to resume them any time soon.
Amit Kumar and Sehej Chaddha — third-year history and political science students from Hansraj and Sri Venkateswara College respectively — do not have the option of physical classes yet but will not take it up even if they begin.
Chaddha, 20, told ThePrint that her final year was crucial and she would rather not waste time coming back to campus, despite the difficulties plaguing online classes.
“It makes no sense to go back to college now. I want to say that I have learnt a lot this past year, but the reality is different,” she said.
Chaddha noted that she would rather utilise this time to intern in her final year and look for a job.
First year students want classes to resume
The skepticism regarding physical classes does not extend to first-year students, however.
The first-year DU classes for the 2020 batch began on 18 November last year and since then their college life has been limited to the screen. Many students noted that college was not just about studies and online classes were inhibiting their personality development.
Alka Priya, a first-year undergraduate student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, told ThePrint that her first year has led to “no growth or personality development” and had essentially gone to “waste”.
About online classes, she said, “I do not have so much data, not everyone has WiFi. I have no access to the library or college resources.”
She added: “Which other thing has stopped because of Covid? Barring the education system, everything is functioning. All the elections are going on as planned.”
Other first-year students want offline classes to resume because the excessive screen time is taking a toll on their health and eyesight. Ankit Birpalli, a first-year history student at Hindu College developed eye problems due to the long hours he spent in front of the computer.
However, several students are also confused about the entire exercise. While they want classes to resume because of the immense difficulties of online classes, Covid fears are also palpable.
Siddhant, a second-year MA student from DU, noted that the “overall experiment has been extremely terrible”.
The philosophy student, who is from Mumbai, talked about how his peers mostly conversed in Hindi and his department also gave them no library resources or translations of texts. This forced most of them to seek help from their seniors.
“I feel like I have gained (only) half of what I was supposed to gain from the degree,” 23-year-old Siddhant told ThePrint.