New Delhi: Many students of Delhi University are demanding the reopening of colleges in the national capital after struggling with online education for about a year.
The shift to online lessons in light of the Covid-19 lockdown has hit students from rural areas particularly hard as connectivity issues often freeze them out of classes. Others, meanwhile, complain about not having access to adequate course material.
Many students of the university have taken up the issue on social media through tweets and memes.
Please support at 11 am today,
This is not my sole campaign, it's for you all and it should by you all. pic.twitter.com/wIYrdcepCS
— Kavishk vaibhav (@KavishkVaibhav) March 30, 2021
In the age of personality development we're developing technical knowledge Recently we have taken OBE but honestly speaking i don't have thorough knowledge of my syllabus because we don't get anything in our online classes, Students are suffering from depression. #reopendu pic.twitter.com/zKMs5GPxSo
— Manavi verma (@ImperfectWrite2) March 26, 2021
— Anup Mishra (@AnupMis38525022) March 30, 2021
Meanwhile, around 5,700 DU students have signed an online petition, started two weeks ago, asking for the reopening of DU colleges.
Schools and colleges across the country were shut down last March, days before the entire country went into lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19. They were allowed to reopen last year, but DU colleges have so far only called back final-year students who need to do lab or research work.
Now, however, many states are once again shutting down educational institutes as the country grapples with a second Covid-19 wave. The decision came after schools and colleges across India emerged as Covid-19 clusters.
There are an estimated 2 lakh students in DU colleges. Speaking to ThePrint, DU authorities said colleges are unlikely to be reopened amid the second Covid-19 wave. They added that they are in touch with colleges to address the concerns of students and teachers.
‘Ready to adjust with Covid’
Mrinal Rai, a History Honours student at Ramjas College, said she is still not clear about her course material a year after starting college. “With online classes, there is no clarity as to what topics we are supposed to study. Add to that the fact that we don’t have access to study material,” she added.
Rai, a resident of Chandrapur, Maharashtra, appeared for her first-semester exams this year and described the exercise with disdain. “With the exams being in the open-book format, all students need to do is write down the answers shared with them (by other students). There is mass cheating happening and colleges are least concerned with it,” she said.
Deepender Sharma, a first-year Physics student from Rewari, Haryana, said he is “ready to adjust even if there is a threat of Covid in Delhi”.
“Internet is the biggest problem for students like me who live in villages. Due to poor connectivity, I have to log in several times in a single session. Sometimes, due to such problems, the meeting administrator doesn’t let us into the sessions after a few minutes,” added the Kirori Mal College student.
“Our productivity has dropped, we don’t understand how we are being graded on our internal assessments.”
Sharma said he was a science student but hadn’t had any practicals in the past one year. “What is the point of toiling so hard and getting into a reputed college if my education is incomplete?” he added.
Shubham Chaudhary, a member of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU), said many students are suffering from a host of problems that are affecting their studies. “Internet connectivity is a major issue that a lot of students are facing. The availability of study material is another problem that we are struggling with,” he added.
“With no libraries to access and no physical notes being handed out, students are struggling to get access to study material. Students living in villages, who have poor connectivity, are struggling to attend classes, how will they manage to get their study material online?”
The demand for a return to offline classes is not new. It has been raised for the past three months, with students holding protests to press for the reopening of colleges.
In the online petition, students have cited University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines to state that colleges have the permission to call 50 per cent of the students for offline classes.
The demand has been echoed by Manoj Kumar Jha, a DU professor and Rajya Sabha MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
My own experience of teaching online since last year tells me that it fails the test of wholesome participation which is integral to teaching-learning.Differential access to required technology further widens the divide. Please reopen!!#reopendelhiuniversity
— Manoj Kumar Jha (@manojkjhadu) March 30, 2021
‘Opening colleges unlikely’
Rajeev Gupta, the Dean of Students Welfare at Delhi University, said it is unlikely that colleges will reopen amid the rising wave of Covid cases.
“We are in constant touch with all the colleges of DU to address the concerns of students and teachers. We are also planning to hold a meeting in a week’s time to address the concerns being raised by students, but I don’t think colleges will reopen with increasing Covid cases,” he added.
“Since the shutdown of colleges, we have appointed student counsellors to address student concerns. They are still in place and helping students,” he added.
DU registrar Vikas Gupta said the administration was hoping to reopen colleges in the next semester (beginning April) but the spurt in Covid numbers forced them to put those plans on hold.
Asked about the students’ grievances, he said, “As per my knowledge, all the professors are holding classes regularly. If students take adequate notes during sessions, they do not need any reading material. As for other student problems, we have asked colleges to reach out to their students and set up a grievance redressal mechanism.”
As for students worried about missing practical lessons, he added, “Professors demonstrate practicals on video and send them to students. When colleges reopen, these students will be given time to acquaint themselves with lab work. We do not want to call in too many students right now with the increasing number of Covid cases in educational institutes.”