Covid cases rise, more Mumbai colleges return to online classes
Weeks after colleges began taking baby steps towards the gradual reopening of their campuses, the rise in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai has once again postponed such plans. A handful of institutes which had recently started physical practical sessions or scheduled a combination of online and offline preliminary examination for their final year batches have now called off all physical sessions and are continuing lectures online only.
While there were no clear directions from the government, some colleges had chosen to restart practical sessions for their final year students. “Our students were worried about not understanding important practical concepts online, so with the consent of their parents, we had started allowing not more than 15-20 students to our laboratories on a single day for practical sessions,” said Hemlata Bagla, principal KC College, Churchgate.
She said that the college has now planned practical classes in a way that students who come for classes sit through four-five back-to-back lectures so they don’t need to come back to the campus for a physical class anytime soon. However, the originally scheduled preliminary exams for final year students starting March 3 will now only be held in the online mode, added Bagla.
A college in the suburbs planned to call batches of 20-25 students for classes, but has put the move on hold. “We had also received consent forms of parents, but the current situation does not permit us to take any chances with the health or safety of our staff and students. For the time being, we are continuing with online classes,” said the principal of the college on the condition of anonymity.
In the first week of February, state education minister for higher and technical education Uday Samant announced that colleges can reopen with not more than 50% attendance on campus at any given point of time. Mumbai University affirmed this move with a circular asking colleges to approach the local civic authority or the collector’s office before restarting physical classes in a phased manner. The circular also shared Covid-19 safety guidelines prescribed by the University Grants Commission to ensure safety of staff and students.
On February 12, a meeting between officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and MU led to the decision to postpone reopening of colleges by a week until February 22. Since then, owing to rising Covid-19 cases in the city and state, neither the education minister nor the local civic authorities have given any clear directions to colleges or the university about reopening.
This has forced more colleges to start preparing for another examination session in online mode only. “The last time (winter 2020 examination session), we had very little time to prepare and colleges were asked to put together question papers in multiple choice questions (MCQs) format, but this time round, we will try to incorporate more descriptive type questions along with MCQs in the papers. Whatever the decision of the university or the state education department, colleges are preparing for examinations already,” said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s College, Bandra.