Hundreds of students gathered at gate no. 15 of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, demanding the university’s re-opening and resumption of offline classes on February 17, at a call given by the Students Federation of India, JMI unit.
The university had shifted to online classes following the lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and has been on the e-learning mode since then. According to a press statement released by SFI, the demand for offline classes arises from the fact that e-learning and online classes have created a huge digital divide, which is highly exclusionary. The online classes do not take into “consideration a large number of students who do not have available infrastructure (reading materials, laptops, data packs) or a conducive home environment to attend classes.”
In such a scenario, the continuation of online classes will only deepen the existing inequalities and further affect those who are from marginalised sections, according to the students.
Image Courtesy: Rafat Alam
Following the protest, a delegation of six students met with the Chief Proctor and the Dean of Students Welfare to submit a memorandum listing their demands.
The administration have agreed to consider the concerns raised the students and said that they are planning to start the process of re-opening in the next 10-12 days, according to the SFI statement.
However, the students have resolved to stage larger protest if their demands are not met at the earliest. The statement added that the students will not stop till it is ensured that the digital divide is closed and the classes commence soon.
As NewsClick has reported earlier, according to the NSS Report on Education (2017-18), only 24% of Indian households have internet facilities. Access to digital technology is equally limited. Only 11% of the households have any type of computer (which would include desktops, laptops, notebooks, and so on. It is estimated that only 24% of Indians own smartphones. Moreover, 20% of India’s households receive less than eight hours of electricity a day. Only 47% receive electricity for more than 12 hours.
Image Courtesy: Rafat Alam
Detailing the students’ concerns, Abreeda Banu of SFI JMI unit said, "University administration must consider the demands of students to reopen the campus. Everything is open except the university campuses. So, it's high time to reopen JMI University campus."
Jamia PRO Ahmad Azeem said the health concern of students considering Covid -19 is a major issue. University authorities met the protesting students and assured them that their grievances will be discussed in the Executive Council, also considering other stakeholders.
"Views of all stakeholders, including parents will be taken into consideration before a decision on reopening the campus will be taken by the EC of the university," he told NewsClick, adding that, "a large number of students and parents wrote to the university administration that at present online teaching should continue as the environment is still not conducive for offline classes".
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