Respected teachers of St. Stephen’s College,
We are all aware that at present, the world is going through an unprecedented crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the light of this, the Honorable Prime Minister has declared a national lockdown. It is understandable that due to such circumstances, all classes and examination schedules have gone haywire. It may not be possible to predict when and how classes will recommence; several reports show that a longer lockdown might be necessary in order to control the outbreak.
Several of us alumni have come to learn that a few of our Departments have been attempting to conduct online classes. While one would expect that such classes would help teachers and students cover the syllabus, one must also bear in mind the following:
• Many of our students do not have access to good quality internet. There are frequent power cuts and WiFi outages; and data connection is weak and sporadic. Poor connectivity plagues many students in rural India. This way, a large fraction of students will end up missing out on their lectures.
• Moreover, if online classes are to become a basis for attendance, this would deprive several students of the opportunity to sit for final examination. This method would not work for everyone, and thus, does not make sense, especially since the University has not issued any statement regarding the same.
• Many students’ families may be facing problems due to a shortage of resources and health issues among members. Many students come from strained families and an abusive background. The present situation makes it difficult for them to devote time to their studies – indeed, college campus is actually a place of refuge for many of our students.
It would thus make sense to observe the progress of the lockdown and wait for the University to decide when to restart the semester. Several institutes in India have decided to recommence their semester in May-June and start the next semester in continuation. There are several media reports that online classes are not a viable option for many due to poor internet connectivity.
Entering a University in India, especially one as prestigious as Delhi University, is in itself a struggle for many marginalised group. Thus, online classes-based evaluation system is not fair to these students who have already faced a lot. We strongly urge you to not hold online classes and not use them as a basis for attendance for the students.
Alumni, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi
Featured image provided by the author.