All degree colleges in Maharashtra will reopen October 20 onwards after remaining shut for a year and a half. Subject to following all COVID related protocols and the standard operating procedures (SOPs), colleges and technical education institutes have been permitted to allow 50 percent or more fully vaccinated students to attend the offline classes. Colleges and universities will however have to continue offering online classes to students unable to attend physical classes.
Taking into cognisance the drop in the number of COVID cases in the state, Uday Samant, minister for higher education and technical education announced the decision yesterday (Wednesday) evening after a meeting with officials of the education department. All colleges and universities will have to consider the local pandemic situation and consult with the local administration before reopening the institutions.
While degree college students (aged 18 plus) are already eligible for vaccines, the government resolution (GR) has pinned the responsibility of vaccinating those not yet fully vaccinated on the educational institutions. All universities and colleges (autonomous as well as private) have been asked to liaison with local authorities and conduct special vaccination camps for both staff and students. Educational institutes will have to report vaccination data for students and staff to the administration on a regular basis every week. Resumption of college and university hostels will be permitted in a phased-wise manner. The education department will also ask the state’s chief secretary to permit students in Mumbai to travel by local trains to colleges across the city.
“The government has been keen on reopening colleges at the earliest. University vice-chancellors and college principals have all assured me about being ready to reopen institutions as soon as the government allows resumption of physical classes. They have even taken the responsibility of ensuring that their entire staff and their students are fully vaccinated at the earliest,” said Samant.
However, not everyone is happy with the government’s timing to begin offline classes. “Mumbai university’s term began on June 15 and will end on October 28 or November 1. All colleges affiliated with it would have exams going on right now and are conducting these exams in online mode. Asking colleges to switch to the offline mode at the campus at this juncture will only create chaos. We have been asked to offer both offline as well as online classes. With so many online classes going on at the same time, colleges are also likely to face internet bandwidth issues. There are lots of practical problems that need to be ironed out. The government should have instead permitted the resumption of physical classes post-Diwali. We would have enough time to prepare according to the SOPs,” says a principal of a Mumbai-based college who preferred to remain anonymous.
He also points out the government’s contradictory stance in allowing XI and XII students to attend without vaccination while insisting all degree college students be fully vaccinated. In the case of junior college teaching staff, the government norms stipulated all teachers be present on campus. However, the current GR has skipped mention of teachers’ attendance altogether. College principals fear without clear guidelines on senior college teachers’ attendance, college and university managements will not be able to enforce the staff’s mandatory presence.
Earlier the lack of coordination between the state government and the local Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has already led to confusion amongst colleges in Pune. The PMC had allowed reopening of colleges, coaching classes and training institutes in Pune from October 12 (Tuesday) onwards after the local disaster management authority cleared reopening of educational institutions. While only fully vaccinated students and staffers were permitted to attend the offline classes, the PMC asked colleges to maintain data on student and staff vaccination. However, on October 12 most colleges in the city (Pune) remained closed while others cancelled their offline classes within a few hours of admitting students in the absence of clear instructions from the state government colleges regarding the reopening of degree colleges.
Ever since the state’s schools and junior colleges (classes VIII-XII) have been permitted to resume physical classes for students (October 4 onwards), there has been growing pressure from parents and students alike to reopen degree colleges too. While there are few junior colleges taking physical classes, there has been a steady increase in the number of schools resuming physical classrooms in the state’s Mumbai district. According to the education department, while only 62 percent of Mumbai schools reopened after the state government allowed resumption of schools on October 4, there has been a steady increase with 85 percent of schools resuming offline classes as on October 12. The number of students too has improved from 24 percent (October 4) to 38 percent (October 12). In all, 8449 schools have resumed physical classes with 80,7609 students attending regular schooling.
Maharashtra reported 30,525 active COVID cases (October 12) of which 8,206 cases were from Pune district while 5,985 patients were from Mumbai district. Together, Mumbai and Pune account for 46 percent of active COVID cases in the state.Posted in News, States