November 6, 2020.
TED NewsDesk, New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) released guidelines advising higher educational institutions outside containment zones to reopen in phases, beginning with research, masters and final-year undergraduate students, on Thursday. However, the number of students attending classes on campus, at a given time, should not exceed half the total student strength, as per guidelines.
Higher institutions and schools across the country have been shut since March 16, upon the orders of the union government, to cope with COVID-19 transmission in India. In October, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed state governments to decide on phased reopening after October 15. The government of Punjab, for example, announced the reopening of universities and colleges after Diwali, from November 16.
Besides standard precautions of regular disinfection of premises and screening of teachers and students on campus, the higher education regulator has also suggested institutions extend teaching hours and follow a six-day schedule to accommodate students in batches and ensure social distancing. Wearing a mask shall be mandatory for all teachers and staff on campus. Attendance for students will be voluntary. Universities have been asked to continue online classes for students who wish to study remotely. Residential campuses will also be allowed to operate hostels “where it is necessary”, sharing of rooms is forbidden.
“Symptomatic students should not be permitted to stay in the hostels under any circumstances,” say the guidelines. “Isolation facilities for symptomatic persons and quarantine facilities for those who were in contact with the positively tested persons should be there on campus, or a tie-up may be made in advance with some Government hospital or approved premises or as advised by the local authorities so that, in case of necessity, prompt action may be taken. Proper arrangement of safety, health, food, water etc. should be ensured for those in quarantine and isolation facilities,” the guidelines also state.
Following the 7-month dry spell for students across India, as well as higher education institutes, a phased process of reopening with voluntary attendance will be seen as a welcome move for students unable to cope with their online classes. While management from colleges will be put under added stress, the student community that has been struggling will know some respite. However, only time shall tell if this move will cause a spike in cases of COVID-19 despite all precautions.
Source: Indian Express