Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Between 6-7th of March, many students left their college for home. Planning for a short trip, they packed a small bag with bare minimum requirements. It wasn’t until they had all travelled to their hometowns that the lockdown was enforced. Suddenly, they were expected to maintain their college life over a 100 km away from their colleges. And this was how their troubles started.
The first strike against the students was that a steady and fast internet had become a prerequisite to an education. Assignments, classes and evaluations soon began on online mediums like Zoom, Hangouts, Google classroom, etc. Many students were unable to keep up. Surveys conducted in Lady Shri Ram College and Miranda College, Delhi University have found that more than 58% of the students surveyed said they are rarely able to attend online classes and 16% students did not attend a single class during lockdown. Hence, many were left out of the learning during lockdown. Additionally, it is important to note that many colleges are not engaging in proper online teaching. Online teaching is a nuanced form of teaching which requires training in specific skills. It is particularly difficult for some professors who do not have the technical knowledge to engage in online classrooms, but even others are completely habituated to in-person teaching. Hence, the online form of teaching is half-hearted and incomplete. With almost half the semesters teaching left for several departments, it is important to note the lack of actual education that has taken place.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. All students are facing a number of stressors during the lockdown. Students’ lives have been deeply disrupted. The loss of their regular routines has a deep impact on their ability to work and study. This also roots from a lack of external motivation. When students are going to college, external factors like professors, the classroom system, and friends reinforce positive behavior and ensure that the student is being ‘productive’. The lack of this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them. Furthermore, mental health practitioners have suggested that there has been a rise in mental health issues over this lockdown period. In Delhi University, a group of psychology professors and psychiatrists set up a counselling service for students during lockdown. They recently announced that they found an alarming number of students showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a sense of hopelessness about the future and restlessness. Students who were already suffering from a mental illness are experiencing exacerbated symptoms. The psychologists reported that they are also facing difficulty in concentrating on studies, and spending large amounts of time sleeping or lying in bed, showing symptoms of depression. Many students’ homes are not conducive to studying, with many also facing physical or mental abuse from family members. All of these factors have deeply impacted students, making concentration on studies a near impossible task.
Unfortunately, despite the clear crisis exhibited, administrations of many universities have gone ahead with the recommendation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) on conducting online exams. Administrations like the Delhi University struggling to give clear messages and many student politics and teacher representative have spoken up about the totalitarian nature of their decisions.
Furthermore, with 70 per cent of students in St Stephens, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Lady Shri Ram, Hindu, Miranda House, Ramjas or Hansraj (the colleges in the survey) being outstation students, many were visiting their hometown when the lockdown was declared. They had not carried their study material, devices and books. Recently, DU decision to conduct Open Book Examinations for final year students has been criticised as well. Not only do students not have the study material required, they also face a new form of evaluation. In addition to all the aforementioned stressors, students will now be facing the extra stressor of adapting to a new examination format. The announcements were lacking in clear directions. With these the administration is causing a large amount of unnecessary stress and anxiety. There also seems to be a complete lack of concern for students with disabilities, who may not have the resources to study or give exams in these conditions.
In conclusion, this crisis has made many divisions in society very clear. A sign of a capable administration, at a bare minimum would be to acknowledge the different needs of students and attempt to bridge the gaps. It seems that education has reached its final frontier and must decide if it wants to adapt to the circumstances or muddle through.
By – Josika Mahindru Feature image by – Sana
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