‘Online Studies Took Away The Zing Of My B Tech Final Year’

Shivangi Mishra, 22, completed her B Tech final year during consecutive lockdowns online. Mishra narrates what all she missed out

I was in my B Tech final year from KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar, when we heard the news about the outbreak of Covid pandemic. I was in the hostel, studying labouriously for the final exams and at the same time enjoying the hostel life with my friends.

As the pandemic and the panic spread, we were asked by our college administration to vacate hostel premises. Strict lockdowns were to follow. So, we bundled up our stuff and headed home thinking that the situation will be brought under control in a month or two and we will be back to our normal hostel life soon. However, in good time we realised the intensity of the outbreak the world over.

With no signs of returning to hostel to attend classes, we received information from the college administration about online classes. Studying technology online can be an uphill task for students. To make matters worse, many teachers as well students were not aware of the online education procedures; besides, there were intermittent network issues. To clear the concept, many a time several students would start asking questions at the same time. It seemed chaotic and much would get lost in the confusion.

We had always been to the classrooms hitherto where teachers were physically present and answered our queries. The online classes had their limitations. We struggled to complete the course. Many lagged behind. Those who were not good at studies suffered the most. It was very hard to face an examination after online classes for one whole year and that too for final semester exams.

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During first couple of months, we were completely confused on how to continue studies as the atmosphere at home is entirely different from that of a formal classroom. Sometimes I was frustrated with disturbance with family members moving around. But slowly I devised a routine. Also, as I missed my friends, I started catching up with them online. Despite all what I suffered in academic front, I am really grateful to my parents for their support. At times of Covid, we felt safe with family.

The examinations brought in fresh challenges. The weaker students who used to take additional help from the teachers post-classes and those who had joined the university from remote areas struggled the most.

The placements were also hard to come by as the interviews were done through online apps. It wasn’t the way we had prepared ourselves. A group discussion with interviewees and aspirants in a room is entirely different than how it is conducted online. We couldn’t see the expressions or the faces of the interviewees clearly. At times we couldn’t hear the subject or the arguments placed properly. I would consider myself lucky that I was able to find the position of an associated integration engineer with a private group.

Thankfully, things are getting better now, and students and teachers are getting well versed to online classes. However, online education can never replace the physical classrooms, the hostel life and the atmosphere of a college. I hope the pandemic ends soon and everything goes back to normal.

‘Won’t Send My Child To School Till He Is Fully Vaccinated’

Anita Jha (39) did not send her 15-year-old son, studying is Class 10, to his school in Faridabad when it reopened after a gap of several months. She narrates the reasons behind her decision

On August 1, 2021 we received a communication from my son’s school that they were planning to reopen and asked us to convey if we would be willing to send our ward to the school. The notice also mentioned that the offline and online classes will continue simultaneously, and parent were free to choose any option.

I decided NOT to send my son to school.

The reason is simple: Saket, my son, is not vaccinated. I know virology experts say that even after vaccination, an infection may occur and we need to follow same prescribed precautions as earlier. However, the inoculation does provide the body a better ability to fight and defeat Covid-19 infection. And therefore a jab would have given us some assurance of our child’s safety.

Having stated my reasons, I fully support the government decision to reopen schools. Nothing can compensate a physical classroom when it comes to inclusive learning. But, till the time Saket is fully vaccinated I don’t want to take any risk. Some of my friends have chosen otherwise. In my son’s class of 37 students, about one fourth have chosen to attend the school. To each its own; let this be a personal choice for every parent.

Some people may argue that if parents can take their children to shopping malls, outdoor parks and other public spaces, what is the harm in sending them to a school. My counter to them is: in all such cases, the children are under direct supervision of the parents while at school, the children, either carelessly or under peer pressure, may throw caution to the wind.

Anita Jha says her son Saket improved his grades while attending online classes

This is what happened when the schools reopened last time. Infections soared and the government had to hastily retract their decision. We should have learnt our lessons from that.

I do not doubt the preparedness of the school. Over the last few months, my son went to school for collection of some study material and he told me that proper social distancing was being maintained and in one class they were asked to sit leaving two benches in between. And since only class 9-12 are called, social distancing norms are easily maintained.

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However, how does one keep a watch on the kids all the time? Even if a few children follow Covid-19 protocol, they cannot enforce similar pandemic-appropriate behavior on others in the absence of the teacher. We all know how teenagers are.

Besides, thanks to our access to high-speed Internet and other gadgets, I didn’t see any challenges in my son’s academic performance during online classes. In fact, there is now some self-discipline and improvement in his grades. If the purpose is taken care of by online class then why rush with offline learning in these uncertain times! Why can’t we wait till the vaccination of children is also complete?

It is not only about maintaining precautions in school premises. Not every family can afford a personal vehicle to pick and drop the child from school and hence they have to end up taking a shared or public transport. This increases the risk manifold.

Already, there have been talks of a looming third wave and new variants of the virus that may infect young children too. That worries me. Of course, if the government makes attending schools mandatory, we would have no choice. But I sincerely hope that we make quick progress on vaccination of adolescents and only after that think of reopening schools.

As Told To Mamta Sharma