By Shahnawaz Jaman:
The students of the School of Open Learning (SOL) protested on April 18, 2016, at the Vice-Chancellor’s office to register protest against the gross discrimination as well as the grave difficulties we face as students of Delhi University. Contrary to popular conception, the distance learning mode (SOL) student community does not consist primarily of those who wish to pursue studies part-time. In fact, a majority of students studying through the distance learning mode consists of those who wish to study in regular colleges but are forced to enrol in the correspondence mode because they do not get admission in those colleges. Most of us end up enrolling in SOL because we cannot get past the outrageously high cut-offs of the regular colleges.
The School of Open Learning students are facing a number of problems and during the protest on April 18, speakers highlighted these issues. Shankar, a 2nd-year student of B.A. Programme in SOL, talked of the extremely informal and ad-hoc manner in which the SOL is being run. In his speech, he talked about the ineffectiveness of Personal Contact Programmes because the classes are few. SOL, he said, is one of those rare educational institutions where closure of classes before completion of the course is a norm. The second and third-year students have been provided merely 20 days of classes for completing a syllabus which is as lengthy as the syllabus of regular college courses that gets completed in 180 days. Jampacked classrooms are the reality of almost all study centres of the School of Open Learning.
Ravi, another student of B.A. Programme 2nd-year, highlighted the way in which one whole year of correspondence students gets wasted due to late results since SOL results are released after the admissions in postgraduate courses like M.A., M.Com., LL.B., B.Ed. etc. are already over. This happens not just in various regular mode departments of Delhi University but also when admissions for postgraduate courses are over in SOL as well, thus, closing all the doors of higher education for them. It is very surprising that SOL is not even accountable to its own students.
Aarti, an M.A. Political Science student, further spoke of the indifferent attitude which SOL authorities bear towards students, as most of the teachers remain absent, leaving the students to fend for themselves. In addition to rampant absenteeism, there are rising cases of late reporting and general lack of work ethic among SOL teachers and even the quality of the study material provided to students is outdated and does not cover most of the syllabus.
The demands raised in the protest are:
1. The classes of SOL students should not be closed before the completion of course.
2. SOL students should be provided regular classes till exams.
3. It should be ensured that the results of students come on time and the admission procedure in DU should not be started before the results of SOL students get released.
4. At least in SOL, the postgraduate admission procedure should start after the results of 3rd-year students of SOL are declared, so that correspondence students get a fair chance at admission in postgraduate courses.
5. The University should build 80 new colleges to accommodate all distance learning students in regular courses.
6. DU should ensure the bus pass facility to all SOL students for all routes.
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