For the phased return of final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students, the Delhi University is working on framing the standard operating procedures (SOPs). Many officials have hinted that in all likelihood, the next semester might be taught offline.
Balaram Pani, principal of Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences, who is also the official spokesperson of Delhi University said that the university officials and college principals were working on SOPs and they were expected to be issued within a couple of weeks. He said that they were discussing the modalities. The situation of outstation students might be a concern since they might require hostels, they were still figuring out to solve that problem. They were also planning to arrange some sort of testing facilities for the incoming students in order to ensure the safety and health of their stakeholders was not at risk. They can begin the next semester in offline mode if the COVID-19 situation is better by April-May.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities in the national capital have been closed since March 2020, and classes had moved completely online. Final year UG students had been demanding a phased re-entry of Science students because they were losing their credit points due to no practical lessons after final-year postgraduate students and research students were allowed to return to laboratories in small numbers in November.
Delhi University announced on Thursday, that after consultation with department and college representatives, the university will carefully and slowly start allowing only the final year students to return to campus for practical classes and lab work in small groups.
As both require a certain degree of lab work, the announcement stands to affect Humanities and Commerce students as well. Rajeev Gupta, DU (Dean) Students (DSW) said that from February, the phased entry of students will be initiated by the University. Final-year exams for the students of Delhi University were generally held in April-May.
Across colleges, principals said ensuring physical distancing among undergraduate students will be a major challenge. The principal of Ramjas College, Manoj Khanna, said that it would be challenging to ensure social distancing among students who will be getting together after a difficult year. If they were to allow six-feet of physical distancing, the seating capacity in their labs will have to be reduced to one-sixth of the original. It meant that in the stipulated time period, students may attend only one or two physical classes. The situation might give rise to the possibility of a learning divide against those students who will not be able to visit campuses.
The principal of Miranda House, Bijayalaxmi Nanda said that they were waiting for the university to release an advisory on the matter. She said that in addition to university protocols, their college was also preparing four technologically blended classrooms with 360-degree cameras so that teachers carrying out experiments in the lab with the small group of students could record and stream it for students who could not attend the in-person tutorials. As college hostels will remain closed during this period, the college will only be looking at local students or those who can arrange for their own accommodation.
She also said that contactless sanitizer dispensers were already installed on the campus along with face shields and stocking masks. She said that their classrooms were being cleaned and sanitized as per protocols. These facilities would be then extended to the students returning to campus in small groups.
General Secretary of Delhi University Principals’ Association, Manoj Singh, said that there was a concern among principals but reopening during COVID-19 times was a challenge for every institution, including Delhi University. They were, however, mentally prepared. Confidence has been given to them by the conversation around vaccination.
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