After long Covid break, DU campus reopens for final year, postgrad students
New Delhi: Twenty-year-old Nitika Dabas, a final year student of BSc Zoology at Ramjas College, walked into a socially distanced college campus for the first time since educational institutes were first closed last year amid the covid pandemic. The science student whose course includes a crucial practical component said that she had been waiting for the campus to reopen for the past many months.
“The class today was incredible. It was amazing to be back in the lab and on the field. I didn’t ever think that working on experiments and conducting practicals would become such a luxury when colleges were closed last year. So, doing every activity in person in college was exhilarating,” said Dabas, who was a first-year student when the college was shut last year.
Delhi University colleges were closed last year in March amid the pandemic. While colleges had started practical sessions earlier this year in February, sessions were called off in March amid the onset of the fourth covid wave in Delhi. Earlier this month, Delhi University issued the notification allowing final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students back to campus for practical and laboratory work as part of a phased reopening plan.
On the first day of reopening, colleges saw small groups of students. Dabas was among the four students who came for the practical session on Wednesday at Ramjas College. “All the preventive measures and SOPs did make the experience a little different but as long as we get to study in a safe environment, there is nothing to complain about. We can’t live in the virtual world forever without having any practical experience or training. The theory is not enough for the practical world especially in the course that I am pursuing.,” said Dabas, who plans to visit college regularly for the practical sessions. She shared that the feeling of meeting her friends and teachers after over a year was explicable even though many of her classmates are yet to join in-person sessions since they were not in the city.
Ojit Kumar Singh, Dabas’s professor, took the class on fieldwork on Thursday. He said that practical sessions and fieldwork were crucial for the completion of the learning experience. “Since we need to comply with SOPs, I called students in a batch of 10 and around 6 of them came today. I took them for fieldwork and most of them were happy to be back,” said Kumar. He said that in-person sessions were more conducive for learning since online classes were often fraught with challenges pertaining to network connectivity and access to devices. Interactions with students were also marred by such issues, he said.
“During online classes, it almost feels like we are talking to the wall. Despite all our efforts to keep students engaged, there are challenges of digital divide and connectivity. Today was the first day of reopening and I am hoping that the number of students will increase in the coming days,” said Singh.
Manoj Khanna, principal of Ramjas College, said that the attendance of students was low on Wednesday since it was the first day. He shared that around 40 students came to the college. “Around 30-40 students came today. The response was a little feeble but there is an expectation that the number of students will increase in the coming days as students see their friends turning up for sessions,” said Khanna.
Many principals and teachers also attributed the lukewarm response to the absence of outstation students who make up for a significant section in courses. Owing to uncertainty around the third wave of covid that has been predicted by experts, many students are yet to return back to the city.
Manoj Sinha, principal of Aryabhatta College and general secretary of DU Principals’ Association said that two small groups of students came to the college for practical sessions on Wednesday. The college has two science courses and three lab-based courses.
“We have started calling students in small batches. In computer science, we called around four students and all of them came. In psychology, we called a batch of around ten students. All students were excited to be back. We familiarized them with training and teachers. These are students who came back after the first year and hence the need for re-familiarisation,” said Sinha.