Mumbai colleges await final word from local bodies before reopening
Despite the state government announcing that colleges can reopen starting February 15, colleges are still waiting for permission from local civic authorities. According to the reopening guidelines shared by the University of Mumbai (MU) on February 5, colleges should get permission from the local collectors office and as yet, no such intimation has been received by any college.
“All department heads at our college got together recently and we have chalked out a plan to ensure bringing back staff and students in a phased manner. A letter to this effect has been sent to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as well as the local collector’s office, and we are waiting to hear from them before announcing re-opening of the institute,” said Neha Jagtani, principal in-charge, RD National College, Bandra. She added that the institute has decided to first start calling back final-year students who need practical classes, then slowly move on to first and second-year students.
Last week, state minister for higher and technical education Uday Samant announced that colleges can reopen starting February 15 with not more than 50% people on campus at any given time. On February 5, MU released a circular stating guidelines as prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on phased reopening of colleges.
For starters, colleges have been asked to give first preference to PhD and research candidates and final-year students to attend physical lectures, while continuing online lectures for the rest of the batches. Other than these batches, online classes will have to remain functional for the other batches, states the circular.
The MU circular also clearly states that colleges in the containment zones should not be allowed to start at present, and therefore, the university has asked for colleges to seek permission from the collector’s office before bringing students back on campus.
“Ever since the state government and the university declared about reopening of colleges, we have been receiving calls from several students and parents for updates. Many are still unsure if they should be sending their children to college. And we are currently helpless because we cannot start the college until the local authorities notify us,” said the principal of a south Mumbai college on condition of anonymity.
While permission to reopen college is one worry, a handful of colleges with hostel facilities are still waiting to hear from the government on when their hostel premises will be surrendered by BMC. “Our hostel was used as a quarantine centre by the civic body. While the hostel is vacant at present, we need a clear signal from the local collector before we can sanitise the premises and only then can we call our students back,” said Dr RK Srivastava, professor and head of department, Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education (SIMSREE).
At present, the state government is also yet to clarify whether teachers and students will be allowed to travel by train during peak hours (7am to 12 noon and 4pm to 9pm). Colleges said they will officially announce reopening only once these ambiguities are cleared by the respective authorities.