Housing Woes, Mixed Feelings: DU Students on Colleges Reopening After 2 Years
Outstation students will have less than 10 days to prepare to join college physically on 17 February.
Anushka Biswa, a first-year student at Delhi University's Lady Shri Ram College, says she is worried about moving halfway across the country on such short notice. Currently, in the Northeast, Anushka is among the lakhs of outstation students who have less than 10 days to prepare to join college physically on 17 February.
On the evening of 9 February, Delhi University announced that colleges would open for the first time since they were shut in March 2020 after the outbreak of COVID-19. In the last two years, in-person practicals for third-year students had briefly resumed – only to be stopped again.
While the announcement of classes moving from online mode to offline has been a victory for students who had been protesting for months, the reactions are not of relief from everyone.
Anxieties Over Accommodation
A final-year law student at Delhi University says, "We are expected to suddenly move back to Delhi. In order to start classes on 17 February, we need to reach at least by 14 February for quarantine. On top of that, most of us are struggling to find accommodation."
Most outstation students in Delhi University do not have hostel accommodations and put up in apartments and PGs (paying guests) prior to March 2020. After the pandemic, most students left their apartments and returned to their native places.
"Now, a few of our classmates have been finding out about accommodations around north campus, only to learn that the rates have been doubled due to the sudden rush," she adds.
Accommodations are not easy to find for final-year students as most PG owners prefer first or second-year students who would stay on for at least a year.
There are other problems as well. Hostels, too, which have been lying empty for the last two years, are in dire need of renovation.
And the uncertainty surrounding the opening of hostels is generating further concern, especially among students who cannot afford the rents for PGs and apartments.
"As a union member, I have been getting texts from my juniors and classmates. They say they don't have the money to come back to college. What are they supposed to do," asks Soumyaseema Mandal, president of the History Department Union at Lady Shri Ram College for Women.
Amisha Nanda, a student in the faculty of law, who had been protesting for the reopening of the campus, says that their demand was for "accessible education."
"This was a fight for marginalised students who could not afford an education through smartphones. But this decision made on such short notice will only worsen their grievances."Amisha Nanda, a DU student
Some college students are trying to conduct polls against the reopening. Others have been sending mass emails to the administration to retract the order. With no clear guidelines from the university on COVID-19 safety measures and funding for the same, administrative bodies and students await further information in anxiety.
Lack of Clarity Over Exams and the Academic Calendar
Due to the pandemic, students across different years are not following a uniform calendar. This means that while some students are looking at graduating soon, others have barely begun college.
"It had to happen. But I do feel that it should have been done in a more systematic manner. All three years are in very different places in their course. These are certain considerations the university should have taken," says Karthika Sanjeev, the president of LSR Student Union.
"It is the worst for first-year students," says Anushka. "The first-year students have been taking baby steps to cope with online college. They have had their entire semester take place online. They were supposed to have exams from 21 March, and the current situation has led to the question of whether these exams will be online or offline. Students are reluctant to take offline exams as their entire learning process has been online so far."
"Third years have only three months left before their college life ends. I am very anxious. I had other things planned for these last months," says Guncha Sachdeva, a third-year student at Venkateshwara College.
Mentally prepared to graduate online, a lot of these students had entrances lined up or internships and jobs planned.
A final-year law student says, "Our semester system had been disrupted due to the pandemic. Due to the second wave, even online classes had stopped for a short while. And instead of starting in September, our fifth semester started in December. We are worried that our final examinations will be pushed further. This will mean that we will not be able to sit for the bar exam and will be disqualified from applying for government jobs."
A Silver Lining in Sight?
Not all students are worried, however. Many are happy to be able to finally break out of screens and pursue their dream courses. "Having learnt Class 12 on the online platform, I did get a little accustomed to it, but I think it's about time that we were called to college," says Tanmay Singh, a first-year student at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce.
Some students say that they are just glad to be able to "hug friends" after two years of being away. Offline classes also promise to be more accessible for students who usually struggle with internet connections.
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