Higher education institutions in Kerala buzzed with activity after close to 300 days when they partially reopened on Monday under stringent restrictions in view of the COVID-19 spread.
The students’ joy of being able to return to their campuses was visible as it eclipsed concerns over the pandemic that had given way to the possibility of a zero academic year. While offline classes commenced for final-year undergraduate and all postgraduate students, a decision on the remaining batches is likely to be taken only after two weeks.
Lauding the decision to resume offline classes, Sangeeth, a first-year M.Com student of the Government Arts College here, said the sessions conducted on web-conferencing platforms did not instil confidence among large sections of the student community. “Considering there were various hindrances in the medium, we have been hoping for a return to the conventional classroom environment. While interaction is key for education, not many students preferred to raise doubts through online platforms,” he said.
Varsha, a first-year student of M.A. English in SN College, Chempazhanthy, is also relieved her post-graduation studies were not confined to her home. The marked fall in the prevalence of COVID-19 cases, particularly in Thiruvananthapuram district, also instilled confidence.
Amidst teething issues concerning the resumption of classes, including transportation woes and dearth of accommodation, colleges across the State reported average attendance with many less-accessible institutions in city suburbs and rural areas witnessing a low student turnout.
Suma S., Associate Professor of Hindi and the College Union adviser in the Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram, said several students who hail from districts as far as Malappuram and Idukki have chosen not to rejoin after finding it hard to find places to stay.
“For such students, we will persist with online classes. The scenario is bound to increase the work load of the faculty that will have to attend to students who are able to make it to the college and those who aren’t. We hope the situation normalises within a few weeks, considering the university examinations are round the corner,” she said.
In Thiruvananthapuram, the City Corporation undertook a fogging drive in campuses in the city, while the premises were sanitised by the college authorities themselves.
Students were subjected to thermal screening and permitted entry after jotting down their contact details on register books maintained at the entrance in accordance with the COVID-19 protocol. In order to maintain a 50% attendance, college authorities rearranged seating arrangements to ensure only two students sat on a bench.
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