A section of students and teachers of various universities in the national capital on Tuesday voiced their concern over holding online classes, fee hike and lack of infrastructural support in the varsities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delhi University is conducting online open book exams for final semester students of postgraduate and undergraduate courses. The move was opposed by students and teachers who were demanding that the exams be scrapped. The varsity has also commenced online classes for third and fifth semester students from August 10.
During an online briefing, Abha Dev Habib, a Delhi University professor, said teachers and students have been left out from the decision-making process to hold online classes.
“The decision of online open book exams was taken without thinking about students. What will happen to students in Kashmir and those stuck in floods. The students do not have gadgets for online classes. “The decision was taken without consulting the statutory bodies — the Academic and Executive Council,” she alleged.
Unni Maya, a student of Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi University, said the varsity has gone ahead with the decision to hold online classes without thinking about the mental health and well-being of students. Taking online classes means that students have to spend a high screen time in front of their mobiles or laptops which impacts their health.
She demanded that the varsity should think about funding and providing gadgets to students and it should also release department-wise data on how many students have availed online classes.
Students and teachers of other universities also raised similar issues. Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh said the varsity administration is not concerned about teaching-learning process or about students in Kashmir who still do not have access to a proper internet connectivity, or about flood-affected students or those who contracted COVID-19. “Students are being pressurised to register for the next semester at a time when the UGC has also said that the varsities must finish the current semester by September 30. There is no meaning of registration. The varsity administration is continuously creating issues,” she said.
She also alleged that the students of MBA and Engineering are being charged lakhs of rupees despite not having access to labs and having part-time faculty.
“I would call it daylight robbery. Even the representatives from these departments have been pressurised to not raise their voice,” she said.
She also urged the varsity to ensure phased return of students to the campus by following proper medical protocols and establishing quarantine centres inside the premises.
Voices were also raised from Delhi government-run Ambedkar University against online classes and how the administration and even the state government has not heard their pleas.
Shubhojeet Dey of Ambedkar University said they had conducted a survey among students and found that 48 per cent of students had access to smartphones while two per cent did not have access to any gadget for accessing online classes. Only 50 per cent of the students have access to laptops, he said, adding that 62 per cent out of these do not have laptops for more than three hours since the laptop is also used by their siblings, who are either studying or are working.
“It was found that 73 per cent of students do not have stable internet connection and 98 per cent of the female students were also supposed to contribute to household chores. We have even approached the authorities and even the Delhi government with our problems but there has been no resolution,” he added.
The students had boycotted the orientation class which was held to introduce the students to courses.
Listing out the demands of the students, Dey said they want that the classes should be postponed by a month and laptops should be procured for students from disadvantaged sections and data packs should be given to all the students.