Colleges in Odisha are facing difficulties in maintaining safety measures.
The government has made it mandatory for teachers to go to the colleges to hold online classes, which increased the number of positive cases among teachers.
“Three teachers have tested positive for Covid-19 after they came to college”, said Dr. Pradip Kumar Samantray, the HOD of English Department, Prananath Autonomous College, Khordha.
Commissioner-cum-Secretary, IAS Saswat Mishra, Odisha Higher Education Department, has issued a notification saying that “Given the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Odisha has instructed all the Universities and Colleges to remain closed for teaching till 31st August. This will result in a loss of teaching days and may completely disrupt the Academic Calendar. Therefore, all Degree Colleges are to start online teaching as per the following modalities, so that there will not be any disruption in learning during this period.”
Dr. Samantray also said, “We have been provided with sanitizers in college, but as many people use the same sanitizer, it is safe to carry your sanitizer.” He further said the washrooms and common staff rooms are well sanitized, but not the classrooms. Moreover, the college Wi-Fi is so weak making it hard for the teachers to teach.
He also said social distancing initially was ok, but with the ongoing +2 and +3 admissions, many people from all over the state come to the college with their parents which made it impossible to maintain social distancing. “It is not possible for so many people to be tested for Covid-19, we do not have adequate equipment for doing so.” However, he said that regular Covid-19 testing was done during the evaluation of the answer scripts of the +2 students, still, social distancing was an issue.
Dr. Manoranjan Senapati, the Principal of Prananath Autonomous College, Khordha said, “We are following the Government’s guidelines. The Government has told us to work with 50% of staff each day, on which we have made an excuse: the teachers can hold classes from home if they face difficulty in coming to the college,”. “The common rooms and the premises are sanitized daily, but we are facing problems in maintaining safety guidelines during the admission procedure.” He also added that 10-20% of the teachers do not come to college at all, so other teachers are being overburdened with the work.
“We held a meeting for maintaining safety measures for the evaluation of the +3 Final Year answer script on October 8,” Dr. Senapati said, “the results of the exams will be out by October 31.” “The +3 final year exams were held online this year, and the evaluation work will also be held online with maximum safety precautions as possible,” he went on to add.
Ms. Madhusmita Pattanaik a teacher in the Government(SSD) Higher Education School, Bhubaneswar, a school for tribal students, said that during the lockdown, the e-SuVidya app was being used to teach the students. As lockdown is lifted, the teachers had to travel to different slums to teach the students there.
“The students think this is some kind of fun,” Ms. Pattanaik said, “Most of the students focus on the meal that is served after the classes, and not on the studies. Now that no food is being served, we are witnessing a steady decline in the number of students.” She teaches the students in a community hall in the slum that the students stay in. “Each teacher has been assigned to a particular slum,” she said, “a single teacher has to take care of students of different classes which disrupts proper teaching.”
Ms. Pattanaik said that basic equipment like blackboards and books are not available in many halls and social distancing with compulsory masks is maintained for safety. “Even though the hall is being sanitized properly before and after the classes, the government should take care of the home environment, and encourage not only the students but also their families to send their kids to schools and to take proper safety measures.”
Dr. Mihir Kumar Das, the officer-in-charge, Higher Education Ministry, Odisha, said that the detailed guidelines were on the department website, and refused to give any further remarks.
The guidelines published by the higher education ministry states that
• Teachers shall form WhatsApp or/and e-mail group of students, not exceeding 32 in one group.
• Teachers shall provide a soft copy of Notes/ Text Books/ Reference Books / Good PPTs/ Recommended Lectures (of self or others) to students either through WhatsApp or e-mail to study at home. Good digital study materials are also available in e-PG Pathshala (e-content), MOOCS (Massive Open Online Course), Odisha State Open University website, etc.
• Teachers shall conduct online classes with students for at least 2 to 3 hours per day for three days a week. They can use Google Meet/ Zoom/Skype or other digital platforms for such purpose. The online class must be conducted by the teachers from the college premises.