Travel, safety are major issues in reopening Mumbai colleges from February 15
The decision of the state department of higher and technical education, to reopen colleges with 50% capacity starting February 15, has invited mixed reactions both, from colleges and students. While many feel it is time to take baby steps towards bringing students and staff back on campus, others questioned the move, especially since the government or the University of Mumbai (MU) has not shared detailed guidelines on how such a task can be achieved.
“As of now, we only know that colleges need to reopen starting February 15, but the details of this move are still unknown to all. Unless we are informed exactly how to implement this move, the institute can’t take any decision towards reopening,” said Parag Ajgaonkar, principal of NM College, Vile Parle. Ajgaonkar added that while the college has started slowly preparing to bring back students in a phased manner, nothing is certain unless the government clarifies its decision.
Other than the worry of a large number of students returning to campus, colleges are also concerned about how this will be possible, especially since trains are still not open to the general public during peak hours.
“Reopening of schools is still possible because students depend on autos, cars and school buses to commute, but college students largely depend on trains. Since trains are not open to them from 7am to 1pm and again from to 9pm, how do we expect staff and students to commute?” asked TA Shiware, speaking for the management of Wilson College, Worli. He added that the government should first rework travel restrictions before reopening colleges.
Several city colleges have around 3,000 to 5,500 students, and another few hundred teaching and non-teaching staff. Even with 50% attendance, colleges are worried about bringing students back on campus.
While most institutes already have a sanitisation program in place, some are worried about the expenses that will be incurred by them once students start attending regular lectures. “We have 4,000 students plus staff to cater to, and even if only 50% of them are on campus, sanitising every class and ensuring sanitisers for all students and staff will be a huge cost to incur. The government should look into offering some financial aid to colleges, especially those with a large number of students,” said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s College, Bandra.