I remember it was March 14, and we were eagerly waiting for the notice to come out regarding the closure of University and all academic activities, keeping in view the Coronavirus pandemic. Prior to this, we had little knowledge about the virus spreading, but were most importantly concerned with our college holidays. There was also much excitement and surprise as many other Universities in India, and across the world, had declared shutdowns. AMU was waiting for the right turn.
Around 1 o’clock, a message popped on our class’ Whatsapp group about the suspension of our classes, and we were done. The semester came to a halt without even starting. This was the second ’round of holidays’ for the AMU students because the December 15, 2019, incident (the UP Police brutality in AMU) led to the sudden closure of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). And thereafter, the incidents and protests that happened in Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), as well as other protests in many parts of the nation, led to a strong agitation against the infamous Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This is a discussion which I will try to cover up in some other write-up.
Meanwhile, after the holidays were announced due to the spread of COVID-19, the suspension of classes for a week happened first. But, I and many knew and speculated that this is going to last for long.
With this, my friends and I headed back to pack our bags and leave for our respective home towns. And I can say that the decision we took at that point of time, though urgently, was the correct one, because who knew staying for a week or more might bring the ‘Janta Curfew’, the closure of Indian Railways and Airlines, and all together lastly ‘The Lockdown‘ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the night of March 24, 2020.
But I reached home safely on March 19, 2020, 3 days prior to the suspension of domestic travelling in India. Many of my friends back at AMU couldn’t make up. But, I was home, and am till this date.
I have spent 25 days at home now, going nowhere, completely locked down, waking up, eating, doing a bit of writing or researching on my laptop, studying from my books, which I, fortunately, brought along my side, eating again, and sleeping. The past days have gone like a hurricane, with unlimited counts of resting.
Its April 13, 2020, and back in college we might have come to the end of our mid-semester exams, and everyone would have got busy with their projects and assignments. But here, we are at home and things turned out to be different. The HRD Ministry and the UGC together have laid down serious measures to conduct online classes in various institutions across India and have directed the Vice-Chancellors of Universities and Principals of Colleges to adhere to the same.
It is quite unfortunate that the fate of students all over India, sitting at home, is unknown to everyone. Academics have come to a halt. Schools, colleges, and universities are shut, till when no one knows. Every day we hear of the lockdown being extended and the suspension of classes as well.
Many schools, private and government, across the country have already promoted students (till the 8th standard) to the next coming class. Big relief to them, as we all find ways to escape the exams somehow! Ambiguity still lies with the college and university students and that too primarily with those students who are in the final year of their course and are about to get their degree this year, in 2020. What about them?
Many of these students have already left behind hopes to appear for entrance examinations (many already postponed) of various postgraduate degrees. Many are already worried about their jobs which I suppose is going to be a task itself for companies and employment sectors after the lockdown, in order to stabilise themselves. The reason being, India is heading towards recording one of the highest levels of unemployment, with the economy already hit. The daily wage labourers and small industries are facing most of this crisis. So, recovering from this state is going to be a task for the Indian government. Hopefully, we will overcome this.
What strikes my mind, and which many like me might be thinking is, what is the final output of these online classes?
Meaning, indeed these classes are benefitting students a lot, but on the other side of the coin, there are many students who don’t have proper access to internet and smartphones, and they are the worst hit in this scenario. And this is actually a real problem which the government and the institutions are seemingly ignoring.
Speculations are also doing the rounds that online examinations may also be conducted if the lockdown doesn’t end anytime soon. And, for this, working committees at various levels have already been created and are working for the same.
Another question which lies is, how will the online exams be conducted online at this crucial time? Has the government or the UGC laid down proper guidelines before its final implementation? And if so somehow exams are being conducted online, be it through online paper presentations, projects, assignments, or even through online vivas, then how are those students who live in remote areas, and don’t have access to these online internet facilities, clear them? How is the government going to put together measures for them?
As I write this, Union HRD Minister of India, Mr Pokhriyal has asked better suggestions to conduct classes online more effectively. Well then sir, these are the points which I consider. Rest is all HOPE.