Sudarshan Sharma is a student from Cotton University, Assam says, “Let us assume that a button of my shirt loosens and eventually falls off. I can use a safety pin in place of the button for a few days. But it will be better to stitch it back with a needle and thread rather than temporarily securing it with a safety pin. Online Education too, is like this safety pin to a shirt which cannot be the new normal.”
On March 15, 2020, the Government of Assam decided to shut down all the educational institutes in the state. This decision followed a 21-day nationwide lockdown, further extensions and lastly, stages of ‘Unlock’. However, the government did not risk re-opening educational institutions.
Finally, on October 17, Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma, the Education Minister of Assam declared that all the schools and colleges of Assam would re-open from November 2, this year.
On this decision of the government, EastMojo spoke to students to get their reaction.
Poree Das, a student of J.B. College, Jorhat is anxious. She says, “I had to go to college a few days ago, I was uncomfortable using public transport because people are not taking precautions. They were not wearing masks, and I felt uncomfortable. Reopening of educational institutions would be risky, as there’d be gathering of course.” Like Poree, there are numerous students with similar fears.
The other concern is regarding their hostels. The government says colleges can open, but hostels will remain closed. Hailing from Jorhat and a student of Kaliabor College under Gauhati University, Pratyakhya Sharma stays in her college hostel. She says, “The decision to open the college but not the hostel has put thousands of students from the state in a dilemma. Considering the network issues, online classes could never be successful. Our course has remained stagnant for seven months. Now, if our hostels do not open, where will we stay? We are clueless. Not everyone can rent a house.”
There are many students from Nagaland and Manipur studying at Debraj Roy College, Golaghat. Ashish Baruah, says, “I think this is a bold decision and the need of the hour. It is highly essential to continue the normal classes. Already we have compromised a lot in the name of online education. Our mental health has started taking a toll. But what about students from Nagaland and Manipur? are they going to travel to Golaghat every day? Not allowing the hostels to open will provoke the nearby paying guests to remain shut. I hope that the college authority will take a stand in this regard.”
The Government of Assam has given the option of continuing education at a college near the students native place. While discussing this with Imran Hussain from DKD College, Dergaon, says, “The syllabus of Autonomous Colleges is different from other colleges. In that case, what will the student do? Also, if a student studies psychology in Cotton University, she or he might not find any college with Psychology Department in their District.”
“Finally, the most awaited decision has come. The world is returning to normal. But has the Virus ended? We need to accept the fact that our colleges are already in shortage of adequate number of classrooms and there is a very poor teacher: student Ratio. In this case, will it be possible for thousands of students to maintain the COVID-19 Protocols? In such a scary situation, how will a parent sign a no-objection certificate and send their ward to a place where their child will be at a risk of contracting COVID-19?”, says Bobee Borah, a student from Duliajan College.
Prahlad Tanti is a student from Dibrugarh University, Assam. Prahlad says that Digital Divide in his village is highly visible. And in such a scenario, continuing with online studies will hamper his education.
Many students EastMojo spoke to also said that they are facing mental stress and anxiety.
Sangita Das is a Central Committee member of Students’ Federation of India. While talking to EastMojo, attempted to sum up the problems that the students are facing. She added, “It is necessary that the schools and colleges open; the academic session needs to start. The guidelines say that the transportation needs to secure, but it is clear from the real-life experience that the vehicles are carrying 100% passengers. We don’t understand how this will be managed. This government from the very start of the pandemic is implementing processes in an unplanned way without thinking from the point of the students—for instance, taking fees for exams without an announcement of the dates till conducting exams, haphazardness in the admission process. We have been bringing these issues to the forefront time and again. This time too, we appeal the government to take student-friendly measures so that the future of the student community doesn’t come at stake.”
Safety Pins can be temporarily used in place of buttons. But, even to use these pins, it is essential to ensure that everyone at least have a shirt to put on. Thus, it will be noteworthy to see how the government and the institutes respond to these queries from students.