Sikkim University yet to initiate physical classes post pandemic
physical classroom

Gangtok: Sikkim University is yet to begin physical classes since the COVID 19 pandemic. The students of post graduate courses (4th semester) and undergraduate students from the sixth semester have raised this question. Most of the Central Universities in the country have switched back to physical classes instead of decreasing Covid cases. However, only the Central University of Sikkim continues with online classes despite zero Covid cases reported a few days ago.

Sikkim University was shut down for students since the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020. The university, which has 2,300 students across 35 departments, is yet to open even after 2 years.

Sikkim’s only Central University, on June 3, had issued a notification stating that all students belonging to terminal semesters of fourth (PG) and sixth (UG) shall attend offline classes in their respective departments from June 13 and the students participating in offline classes shall have offline examinations with pen and paper, the University had stated.

Ever since the notification was issued, the students of the fourth semester have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision taken and have been demanding online classes, stating various reasons.

A letter demanding the continuation of the ongoing mode of online classes and online exams for the final (fourth) semester students was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor stating the problems soon after, but according to the students, “no reply has been delivered by the University authorities.”

The letter has been signed by 296 PG students currently studying in the fourth semester in the Departments of History, Education, English, Peace and Conflict Studies and Management, Sociology, International Relations, Political Science, Nepali, Economics, Mass Communication, Mathematics, Microbiology, Anthropology, Chinese, Psychology, Hindi, Music, Travel and Tourism and Computer Applications as well as 35 UG students from the Departments of Chinese and Geology stating several inconveniences to attend offline classes from June 13 as per the notification issued by the university.

The letter was forwarded/mailed to local media houses by more than 15 students of the university. The letter also highlights that Sikkim University has decided against opening the University for only the fourth and sixth-semester students.

According to the letter, the fourth-semester students have dissertations to complete within a month, and “…with less than 30 days in hand, completing the dissertation won’t be possible…”, shared the students in anonymity. The letter also reads that the students have to start looking for accommodations for which they need financial support.

“I came to join my classes in February this year in the hope the University will start physical classes but that didn’t happen and I had to pack my bags and go back home,” said a student on the condition of anonymity.

“Despite having zero cases, the University is still preferring online classes over physical, “we are frustrated and lacking in confidence. The university not having physical classes is a serious issue for the students since it seems like the university authorities are playing with our future. Due to the ongoing online classes, practicals have not been conducted for the past two years”, stated another student.

At the start of the fourth semester, most of the students had come to the university for offline classes, but online classes were being conducted then and so the students had to pack their bags and return to their home states/cities. Now the university has decided to conduct offline classes, the student added.

The students have also questioned the authority stating “…If offline classes and exams are to be conducted, we were supposed to be called by the university administration at the beginning of the semester only. Now the semester is about to be completed and we will get only 35 days of offline classes. Most of our syllabus has been taught online, therefore it would be very difficult and unnecessary pressure for us to quickly get adjusted and have offline exams of the huge syllabus after a huge long gap of 2 years; in a short duration of 1.5 months…”

“…we are not taking this opportunity as an escape gate by sharing our inconveniences to attend offline classes all of a sudden in the middle of a semester. It’s problematic for many of us to come to Gangtok and attend offline classes now. The majority of the students almost 70% of the students have signed hereby in support of the online class. We are letting you know that we stand with online classes for now and we feel convenient to continue with the online mode only for the remaining 45 days to complete our Post Graduation. So, hereby we would like to request you to keep the online mode of delivering lectures for the rest of days in our fourth semester; we all shall remain thankful to you…,” the letter states.

The students have further mentioned that many universities JNUJamia Milia, and other state universities are conducting their entrance tests for PhD by June-July, as the mentioned universities are scheduled to conclude their masters’ degree programmes before the entrance examination. On the other hand, Sikkim University has extended the Masters’ programme up to August. The students have stated that it would be difficult for them to appear for the entrance exams if they reside in Gangtok and start attending online classes.

The letter further reads that the students have selected their NET examination centre based on their current location, near their hometown and so the sudden decision of opening the University would make it difficult for the students to travel from their hometown to Gangtok or their NET examination centres and back to the State Capital for the offline classes. “…Our dissertation work, preparation for semester examination, preparation for the NET examination, all will be hampered…,” the letter mentions.

“…most rented houses in Sikkim ask six months in advance to provide the rental agreement, whereas we have only 45 working days left to complete our Masters’ degree… Our university is unable to provide a hostel facility to its students as per UGC guidelines and so, they are trying to put the burden of rent house finding on us only. When we are informing the faculties regarding our difficulties, they are saying that the university has taken the decision in favour of student. What kind of favour is it? Putting burden on its students. In this case, the university must take responsibility to arrange accommodation for each and every student, so that we can concentrate on our dissertation work, NET preparation, semester examination preparation,” the letter reads.

“As most of the students are from the Northeast, there are only around 4-5 residential students in each department. Due to the ongoing tourist season, there is no chance for us to get railway tickets and we have to board the flight and the airfares are too high for us students. Looking for an accommodation for two months in Gangtok is a tremendous burden for us, which we don’t want to entertain at any cost now,” said one student from Assam.

The students also highlighted how there was a complete miscommunication between the students’ body Sikkim University Students’ Association  (SUSA) and the actual students of Sikkim University. The students’ body in the university right now is not an elected one, but an ad hoc body, not democratically elected by the students. None of the ad hoc body members has contacted the students asking for the students’ convenience.

“…This SUSA is passing the university’s order to us; they are not conveying the students’ problems to the universities. So, how can SUSA’s decision be the collective decision of the students of the final semester?”

“We had a meeting with the SUSA caretaker executive president over the Zoom meeting, the president stated that one section of the students wants physical classes but when we asked him about the percentage, he was speechless,” informed a student.

VC Khare had earlier this week, maintained, “The university needs to follow UGC regulations however in the past few months we conducted meetings with deans, HoDs, faculties and students’ representatives in which we have decided to partially start physical classes and starting from the next semester university will function like before. The students have to bring Medical Fitness clearance from the SU Health Centre before joining the physical classes. Accommodating students in the hostel was also one of the factors in delay in resuming offline classes as we have to follow UGC guidelines ion which it is mentioned that ‘one person-one room’ format was mentioned,” Khare added.

As informed by VC Khare, examinations for the 4th and 6th semesters will be conducted offline, while examinations of other semesters will be conducted through online mode for this semester.

online mode for this semester.

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