Classes are half-empty and the teachers are burdened. But the University of Delhi (DU) administration refuses to acknowledge the damage that is being done and chooses to take exams. The DU OBE must go on.
‘The show must go on’ is a phrase in the circus business. No matter what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.
And it’s no joke that the University Of Delhi (DU) is being run like a circus.
In the trying times of this pandemic’s second wave, the DU administration is acting like a ringmaster, making the students juggle studies, OBE stress, physical welfare, familial obligations, and mental health, all because the show must go on.
Outside the bubble that is DU, the country is crippling by the collapse of the healthcare system as the entire country goes into mourning. COVID-19 has come back manifold worse. Every student is affected by it in some way. Either directly, with themselves or some family member infected with the virus, or indirectly with a myriad of added worries and responsibilities to run the household.
But in the eyes of DU administration, these tragedies remain unseen and unheard- and the only priority valid during these times is to continue online classes and DU OBE procedures. The efficacy of Open Book Examinations (OBE) is shaky, and their value in the process of learning has been under question before. They have been called farce examinations and even at their best, not a good enough reason to hurt the mental health and burden so many students at this time.
“The increase in the number of cases has resulted in almost all families having one case or the other, causing not only physical weakness but also a mental weakness. The noise of ambulances every few minutes is horrifying. In such circumstances, it’s not possible for students to give exams if they have covid or even if not.”
What if I test positive amidst my exams? Who is going to ensure that it won’t affect my career? What if my condition is critical or any of my family member’s condition is? Should I sit there and give my exam or should I help them?
– Responses from Pan-DU Helpdesk
The current situation is not in any way an environment where students can get a meaningful education. Attending classes and studying for DU’s OBE are not tasks that are on a student’s mind when they are calling numbers from a Covid Resource database, trying to arrange hospital beds, oxygen, life-saving drugs for a loved one dying in the next room.
I am a fourth sem student of DU. I am covid positive and down with fever and have severe body ache. With exams approaching from 18th May, I don’t have enough time to prepare since my body has given up and this will continue till for another 15-20 days. What can I do?
-Anonymous, DU student to DU Beat.
As the university makes good on its policy of ignorance, students have been taking matters into their own hands. From organising mass bunks to requesting faculty a few days off, students are making an effort to find the time to recover, help recover and grieve.
Pan DU helpdesks and Covid Resource verification and amplification initiatives have been set up. A draft of exam cancellation to the Dean of Examinations is in the works.
Teachers (teaching and non-teaching staff)
Teachers have been bearing the brunt of this apathy and indifference too- facing the dangers of the unviable conditions created by the university during these times. Their worries are on par with their students’ worries. After having to return to campus and take classes in non-socially distanced WiFi hotspots, with shaky internet and after staking their lives, our professors are in this cycle of worry and suffering, as is the non-teaching staff on our campuses.
Students can miss classes and try to make up for them. However, teachers have to continue regardless of their mental health. They must continue regardless of their losses and are sometimes even teaching while being Covid positive and in isolation. They have the huge burden to finish the syllabus before exams and help their students in crossing the finish line. And yet, their demands are unheard and their voices stifled under the oppression of the administration.
We have no choice but to teach. The examinations are coming up and we try to stay safe but it is deeply disheartening and painful to see how students are unable to attend class and more and more are falling sick, while we have to forcefully stay positive. I try to keep myself occupied, I only feel like myself when I am teaching my class. But even that is miserable these days.
– Professor, Lady Shri Ram College for Women
There’s no other way to look at it: The University of Delhi (DU) must postpone OBE and suspend online classes. Failing to do so will lead to far-reaching consequences on the welfare of students. Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), All India Students’ Association (AISA), Student’s Federation of India (SFI), and other organisations representing the stakeholders in the education system have done their part in requesting the university for relief.
By now, we should have realised that the university’s commitment to its students’ mental health is a farce. It doesn’t extend beyond soft words in its occasional ‘Message to Students’.
We should have learnt not to expect a reprieve from our previous experiences of DU’s apathy. Be it towards Delhi’s deadly air or Anti-CAA student protests.
Because after all, the show must go on.
Image Credits- Molly Ferguson for C&En
Abhishek Singh Chauhan