India is going through a devastating crisis, one that has left many families incomplete and broken lakhs of bonds. With almost a 35% positivity rate in testing in Delhi and India’s daily tally breaking records, the peak doesn’t seem to be anytime near.
When the first lockdown was imposed, we took time but gradually shifted to the online mode of education. This shift was very important for universities such as Delhi University (DU) who have lakhs of students from almost all corners and backgrounds in the country. While it did allow education to continue, it also accentuated the digital and economic divide among different strata of society. While the wealthy and urban elite settled in well with getting extra time for societies and internships, the poorer lot failed to even peacefully attend classes.
A loss further accompanied this in real as well as nominal income of families, with the lockdown delivering a heavy blow to the economy. Along with this, to further cope with the time lost in beginning the delayed admission process, the Ministry of Education and DU admin brought in a new rushed academic calendar. The aim behind the same was to avoid “Zero Year” at any cost.
In this background, as the second wave grips the nation, it becomes imperative to understand the current reality and reply to it with utmost urgency. In this regard, we propose the temporary suspension of online classes for universities in general and Delhi University in particular along with a revamping of the academic calendar.
To grasp the gravity of the situation, we need to realize the pace with which cases are rising every day in India. We had over 3,30,000+ cases yesterday, which essentially transforms into a massive chunk of students either themselves having COVID or in their immediate family. It is highly insensitive to believe that these students would be in any mental condition to cope with the rigorous academic schedule and screen time that the university expects them to follow.
Even those who themselves are untouched have multiple relatives who are going through it and they are called upon to search for plasma, oxygen, hospital beds, etc., which are in so- dearth under the current onslaught of COVID. This vast segment of students is missing out heavily and entirely disconnected from the system which was meant to serve their needs.
called my professor to ask of I could give exams later due to Covid situation at home, she explained how both her parents are admitted and college still asked her to conduct classes, she's still conducting it. The pandemic is nothing to the Indian education system.
— s (@yoongienthusias) April 23, 2021
With negative news spreading all around about deaths and critical conditions of near and dear ones and WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter filled with requests for leads for resources, students are not in a mental space to pursue academics and any attempt to force the same on them would only lead to their exclusion. This gets aggravated when we factor in the rural-urban, rich-poor, gender, and caste divides that run through our society.
Professors, who are expected to take long hours of lectures, are also humans who can and indeed have caught COVID in large numbers.
Several teachers from almost all DU colleges are suffering from COVID but forced to conduct classes in order to complete the syllabus in these strenuous schedules.
What this leads to is students being taught inefficiently and in an ailing condition. It again becomes highly irrational to expect any teacher who is suffering or maybe whose relative is suffering to concentrate on lectures and assignments checking. This entire condition is further amplified by the pressure of evaluating illegible answer sheets of recently concluded Semester Exams.
Side note: results of the December Semester exams are also not yet fully out.
Several infected teachers are currently self suspending classes due to ill health, which would further compact and congest the duration of the academic calendar. It is thus in the best interest of teachers as well, that classes are suspended, they get time to settle in, get over the crisis, and finally, a revamped academic calendar gives them space to continue imparting quality education.
So as a productive proposal of the most viable solution is that the academic calendar should be revamped to provide a summer break of sorts during the current phase so that students, teachers, and other staff can focus their energies and resources in tiding over the crisis. It would ensure that they are released from the pressures of following a strenuous schedule as well as to look into the interests of those who have been affected and would be left out if this exercise continues.
The break here could then be compensated by extending the academic calendar at the business end. This would be in line with the larger goal of bringing all three years in the same timeline since the postponement of Board Exams would further complicate and delay the fresh admissions.
When the administration assumes to have the capability to finish an academic year, which started in November end, by mid-August, then they would certainly be able to manage a normal calendar that starts in September-end or October beginning. Any hesitancy of not touching the next year should be done away with in favour of the entire academic fraternity of Delhi University and beyond.