Colleges and universities across Maharashtra on Wednesday resumed in-person or `offline’ classes which had been stopped for over one-and-a-half years due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Pune and Mumbai, the attendance was thin on campuses on day one. As per the state government’s directive, only fully vaccinated students are being allowed to attend classroom sessions.
For those who cannot attend physical classes, the online lectures facility will continue. Last week, Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant had announced that all the colleges and universities in the state can conduct physical classes from October 20.
Schools across the state resumed physical classes for students of Std 5 to 12 from October 4. Samant had also said that every university should issue a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the colleges affiliated with it as to what precautions must be taken while conducting classes in person.
As per the SOP issued by Mumbai University, a maximum of 50 per cent of students can sit in a class. Colleges should give students the option of attending online sessions, it said. They should also keep a record of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate of every student and staff member attending physical sessions, said the varsity.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported 1,825 new COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths. Few students turned up at most colleges in Mumbai on the first day. While some students are yet to be fully vaccinated, concerns about safety too possibly weighed on students’ and parents’ minds, said a college teacher.
Reaching college too could be a challenge for many students in the metropolis as local trains can be currently used by only those who have a monthly pass. As per an internal survey, less than 50 per cent of students are fully inoculated while most of teaching and non-teaching staff have had their two jabs of vaccine, said one college professor. ”There was mixed reaction from students on day one. Some students are willing to attend college while some still prefer online lectures,” said Seema Sapale, vice-principal of Kirti College at Dadar.
She hoped that things would return to normal after Diwali vacations, she added. Minister Samant also tweeted to extend greetings to students.
“Best wishes to all student friends. Only those who have lived in their dreams reach the destination….Nothing happens if you only have wings, flight is taken with courage,” he wrote. Some teachers claimed that colleges didn’t get enough time for preparation before restarting classes.
Still, they managed to have the premises sanitized and prepared lists of vaccinated students and staff members, they said. In Pune, a major education hub, most colleges reopened but there were few students.
“Almost all colleges reopened for physical classes. But as only those who have taken both doses of the vaccine are permitted to attend, the average attendance was around 10 per cent,” said Dr Sudhakar Jadhavar, general secretary, Maharashtra State Principal’s Federation.