Updated on: Sunday, January 09, 2022, 06:51 PM IST

FPJ Ed: Students in Maharashtra don't see light at end of the tunnel as universities shut again amid Omicrom threat

Mumbai University  |

Mumbai University |


After rising cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, Maharashtra shut down all colleges and universities till February 15. The decision covered all non-agricultural state, private, deemed, and technical universities along with their affiliated colleges.

The state government, which had reopened colleges on October 13 last year, has now instructed them to remain closed and conduct their examinations online till the said date.

For some students, in the current scenario, being cautious is the best bet. "There's a possibility that the situation deteriorates in the weeks to come so it's better safe than to be sorry," expressed Shreyas Nair, a student from Somaiya Vidyavihar University in Mumbai.

Colleges and universities have also faced the brunt of keeping their classes online for more than 16 months. Students from various colleges and universities went back to their hometowns, as hostels were turned into quarantine centers and facilities when Covid first caused a complete shutdown. This resulted in many students facing issues with attending the lectures due to poor network, connectivity, and other technical hassles.

"Though the cases have been doubling since the past few weeks and cautious steps are important, it's undeniable that because of the prolonging shutdown the current learning methodology has made us more exam-oriented than ever. We must come up with better solutions to deal with the situation rather than shutting down places of learning every time," said Aishwarya Ahire, a student doing her Law degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University while staying in a hostel in the city.

Many students are also perturbed by how activities that provide leisure continue to function, albeit with limitations, while their colleges which just recently went back to keeping physical classes before being shut down again can't do the same.

Ketan Verma, a Mass Communication student from Nashik, believes that he is not able to receive the full potential of his course. "I can go to restaurants, malls, theatres, etc. with restrictions according to the current guidelines but not my classes as it has been shut down without any relaxations. We are lacking the required fieldwork to gain practical experience and knowledge," Ketan told FPJ. According to him, due to the job losses post-Covid, the faculty is not able to cope up with teaching multiple students and often has to rely on a single lecturer for two or more subjects.

While protests by resident doctors in Delhi gained national attention, Maharashtra also saw similar outcries in the state which ranged from increasing workload due to stay on postgraduate medical admissions to notices on vacating accommodations run by government bodies. Though PG aspirants are looking forward to their counselling after the Supreme Court decided to allow it, the students who are already pursuing their medical courses are worried about a possible postponement of their exam dates due to the shutdown. "We are currently going through a prefinal leave before our final exams start but the shutdown has led to it getting deferred to February 28th and that can have its repercussions," claimed Vrushali Tirodkar, a medical student in Kolhapur.

The transition since March 2020 to online classes has also created a lifestyle change of sorts for multiple students. While they are saddened about not being able to live through their 'best years' in college, as remembered by the ones who experienced it, a certain way of living has become a mainstay to them. Soumya Thakkar, a student of Nashik, thinks being lazy and careless has become a part and parcel of their everyday life now. "From eating your breakfast while attending the lectures, watching YouTube videos all day to sleeping late, how I used to go about my day before Covid has altered," said Soumya while heaving a sigh of dejection.

Students are also grappling with anxiety, insomnia, and other problems due to the prevailing situation. "Universities should adopt counseling services for students while also educating them about the various symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, etc. so that they can recognize it early on and work on it with professional help," said Dr. Dayal Mirchandani, a psychiatrist based in Pune who has previously served on the boards of studies of Mumbai University and SNDT Women's University. He also cautioned against students not having enough social interactions as "they are confined to their laptop screens for hours." Dr. Mirchandani has also suggested that since universities have a scarce number of counselors, online portals such as iCALL which provide free and semi-free therapy sessions can be much more helpful.

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Published on: Sunday, January 09, 2022, 06:51 PM IST