Kolkata's Alternative Classrooms: Lessons on the Road Outside JU Campus

A group of Jadavpur University students are attending offline classes on the road outside the campus.

My Report
3 min read

Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor:
Sandeep Suman

It's been over a year and a half since the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020, which brought the country to a standstill. Slowly, some sectors started to open up except educational institutes. Schools, colleges and universities remain shut for offline classes and students continue to study online.

Not satisfied with the situation, some of the students of Jadavpur University, in Kolkata, initiated and organised offline classes outside Gate Number 4 of the university.

Different subjects are being taught by the professors of Jadavpur University in these 'open-air' classes. Students from across all universities are being welcomed. Students have named this initiative 'Bikalpa Classroom' (alternative classroom). My friend Koushik Das and I (Ayan Dawn), attended one of these classes.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Student attending class outside Gate no. 4 of Jadavpur University</p></div>

Student attending class outside Gate no. 4 of Jadavpur University

Photo Credit: Koushik Das & Ayan Dawn

“There is always a different kind of pleasure in taking offline classes. When I see the students face to face, I am able to tell if a s/he is attentive or not. Moreover, in offline classes, I get to know if I need to explain a certain concept to a student once again. Unfortunately, in online classes, these things are not possible. Class is an interactive experience for the students, as well as, the professors. We are missing that so much!”
Nilanjana Gupta, English Professor, Jadavpur University

In the class we attended, we spoke to a few students who resonated similar sentiments.

“I have understood the importance of offline classes once I started doing it online. The whole concept of sitting with each other and attending classes is not there anymore. Interaction on WhatsApp during classes cannot replace the interactions during offline classes.”
Arko Mukherjee, Student, Jadavpur University

These classes have turned out to be a big hit among the students. Tarpan Sarkar, a student of Jadavpur University said, “Initially the initiative was planned to remain in effect from 10 to 13 August 2021. However, due to an overwhelming response, we have decided to continue the initiative for a longer period of time.”

Subhadip Bandyopadhya, another student of the university said that students are following all COVID protocols while attending these classes.

Students as well as professors feel that the government is showing a lack of direction in the guidelines they release.

"My friends and I laugh about the fact that when the lockdown guidelines are declared by the West Bengal government, the first line is 'All schools, colleges, and universities shall remain closed.' Whatever be the notification, that line will always be there in the beginning. If this pandemic continues, does it imply that no educational institute shall reopen?"
Nilanjana Gupta, English Professor, Jadavpur University
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Prof&nbsp;Nilanjana Gupta taking her class</p></div>

Prof Nilanjana Gupta taking her class

Photo Credit: Koushik Das & Ayan Dawn

During the 'unlock' phase, many sectors slowly but gradually opened up. Cinema halls and weddings were allowed. Even elections were held. But only educational institutes and universities were not allowed.

"I can assert that the distance these students are maintaining while attending classes on the road is much more than the distance that was maintained during (political) meetings and rallies that took place during lockdown. Yet, schools and colleges are closed."
Arko Mukherjee, Student, Jadavpur University

Despite rain, several students are turning up for these classes. The students are happy that they can interact with one another and can go beyond the Zoom screens to enjoy a community feeling that they were used to in the pre-pandemic life. The classes are still going on and the students are looking forward to a positive outcome from this initiative.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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