Public Statement by concerned faculty members of colleges and universities in West Bengal

 Schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions in West Bengal were closed from 15th March 2020, more than a week before the nationwide lockdown.

Colleges have been closed for more than 60 days already, with no clear indication emerging about the resumption of vehicles, or the slowing down of the spread of COVID 19. Till the date of closure, undergraduate students across universities had had roughly two months of classroom teaching in this semester, and postgraduate (PG) students even less. Some universities had just concluded their previous semester’s examinations, and started the even semester’s teaching for PG and research programmes.

Various newspaper articles and television channels have quoted Dr.Partha Chatterjee, the Hon’ble Minister-in-charge of the Department of Higher Education, WB, as saying that exams in colleges and universities will be held one month after the lock-down ends. This declaration has not only created significant confusion among students and teachers alike, but it has also raised a series of concerns about the quality and accessibility of education imparted in the last two months, as well as the feasibiliy of conducting exams/classes in the middle of a pandemic.

According to the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) report 2018-2019, West Bengal has more than 1370 institutions of higher education. with close to 20 lakh students. Over the past nine years, many colleges and Universities have been set up by the state government in rural and remote areas, while a huge number of students enrolled in higher education in urban centres hail from distant villages. With the lock-down, they have had to go back home, with no access to the help that institutional and public libraries offer. ‘Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education In India NSS 75TH Round (JULY 2017- JUNE 2018)’ states that only 14.9% of rural and 42% of urban households in India have internet facility, and our interactions with students attest to the fact that often the same internet connection (usually a smartphone) is shared by several members of the household. During the pandemic, teachers have been trying to continue students’ academic engagements via Whatsapp voice notes, conference call over mobile networks, PDF files, and in rare instances, video conferencing. A vast majority of students cannot be a part of synchronous teaching over con-calls and video conferences, due to network connectivity and bandwidth limitations, data limitations and other exigencies. Most colleges do not have dedicated portals for students and teachers to use, making them depend on their personal resources to partake of the teaching learning process. PDFs are difficult to read on the phone, causing immense strain to the eyes, and students have reported that due to data restrictions even those with good connectivity cannot access video lectures such as those available on the National Digital Library. Such piecemeal attempts to ‘finish’ the syllabus has left little or no scope for discussion, and laboratory-based subjects have become impossible to be taught. Additionally, there are reports of students having to perform long hours of housework, look after ailing family members, deal with personal traumas and financial anxieties caused by the pandemic

Alongside this, most colleges and universities in West Bengal suffer from a lack of space. Students and teachers travel in crowded local trains or public buses, often across great distances; students stay in shared Paying Guest accommodations or hostel rooms and sit in crowded, often ill-ventilated classrooms. Sometimes three colleges share the same building across one day, making regular sanitisation almost impossible.

At this juncture, according to newspaper reports, some universities have taken the right decision to evaluate students on the basis of internal assessments/assignments, and to avoid face to face interaction till there is clarity about the pandemic and the ways in which we must alter our lives and institutions around it. However, most universities, including the ones with many affiliated colleges, as well as in provincial locations, have not yet notified their means of evaluation. In the present scenario, asking students to come to college once the lock-down ends and sit for a pen ~ and paper examination, within existing possibilities of contamination would be deeply unfair and life-endangering. The digital divide makes online examinations impossible beyond a doubt. News reports claim that one in 10 of all Indians who go out to work have either already lost, or are likely to lose their jobs in the course of the pandemic. We are yet to assess the impact of economic downsizing on the lives of students from marginal communities, who have got a chance to access higher education in West Bengal because of several beneficial state schemes.

We therefore urge the remainder of the universities, and the Department of Higher Education, WB, to either evaluate students on the basis of the average of their previous results, or on the basis of assignments, or a combination of the two, keeping them safe and not penalising them for not having access to the internet. Universities need to decide upon the modality after extensive consultation with all the stakeholders, and provide clarity in the matter at the earliest.

Postscript: This statement was prepared and endorsed before supercyclone Amphan hit Bengal. All the concerns raised above have become even more serious in the aftermath of the cyclone, with houses, roads, schools demolished, people seeking shelter in camps and no electricity or internet connection. This extraordinary human and ecological calamity has to be taken into account before reaching any decision.

Endorsed by

  1. Samata Biswas, The Sanskrit College and University
  2. Sumanta Mukhopadhyay, Bethune College
  3. Debaditya Bhattacharya, Kazi Nazrul University
  4. Priyanka Das, Presidency University
  5. Suman Nath, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Government College
  6. Sipra Roy, Sivanath Sastri College
  7. Sanjay Roy, North Bengal University
  8. Subarna Mondal, The Sanskrit College and University
  9. Srimoyee Roy, The Bhawanipur Education Society College
  10. Raktima Ghosh, The Bhawanipur Education Society College
  11. Debabrata Lahiri, Hooghly Mohsin College
  12. Kushal Biswas, Women’s Christian College
  13. Ananya Chatterjee, Haldia Government College
  14. Arpita Sengupta, Barasat Government College
  15. Debolina Das, Haldia Government College
  16. Moutan Roy, Haldia Government College
  17. Amit Kumar Roychoudhury,Bidhannagar Government college
  18. Rongili Biswas,Barasat Government college.
  19. Dipanwita Choudhury, Sarojini Naidu College For Women
  20. Pallab Das, Mankar College.
  21. Debarati Dutta, Dhupguri Girls’ College
  22. Debashis Mandal, B B College, Asansol
  23. Ranjan Ghosh, University of North Bengal
  24. Santanu Banerjee, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol
  25. Islam, Bangabasi College
  26. Sajalkumar Bhattacharya, Kazi Nazrul University
  27. Pavel Pal, Bankura University
  28. Rajlaxmi Mukherjee, Garhbeta College
  29. Debalina Banerjee, Bethune College
  30. Arunima Sen, Matiaburj College
  31. Sandip Biswas, Panchur College
  32. Ratul Ghosh, ABN Seal College
  33. Debapratim Chakraborty, Barasat Govt. College
  34. Kalyanashish Bhattacharya, Keshiary Govt. College
  35. Amrita Dasgupta, Loreto College
  36. Kunal Chattaopadhyay, Jadavpur University
  37. Aditi Matilal, Basirhat College
  38. Monalisa Jha, Lady Brabourne College
  39. Swati Mitra, Barasat Govt. College
  40. Maroona Murmu, Jadavpur University
  41. Pinaki Patra, Brahmananda Keshab Chandra College
  42. Sanjukta Roy, Bethune College
  43. Anindita Basu, S. A. Jaipuria College, Kolkata
  44. Madhurilata Basu, Sarojini Naidu College for Women
  45. Priyanka Chatterjee, University of North Bengal
  46. Ipshita Samanta, Lady Brabourne College
  47. Goutam Manna, Prabhat Kumar College, Contai
  48. Afroja Khatun, Surendranath College for Women, Kolkata
  49. Md Rabiul Islam, Raiganj University, Raiganj
  50. Parimal Bhattacharya,  Maulana Azad College,  Kolkata
  51. Kaustubh mani sengupta,Bankura University
  52. Sohini Roy, Sister Nibedita Govt. General Degree College for Girls.
  53. Sanchayita Manna, Garhbeta College.
  54. Aditi Bhattacharya, Barasat Government College
  55. Sayan Mondal, Sarojini Naidu College for Women
  56. Pubali Chakraborty, Serampore College.
  57. Arindam Ghosh, Krishna Chandra College, Hetampur, Birbhum
  58. Santanu Sengupta , S A. Jaipuria  College , Kolkata -05
  59. Gauriprasad Nanda, Umeshchandra      College
  60. Gargi Basu, S.A. Jaipuria College, Kolkata
  61. Sonal Kapur, The Bhawanipur Education Society College
  62. Sulagna Chakraborty, Lady Brabourne College
  63. Tanushree Sahu, S. A. Jaipuria College, Kolkata
  64. Tista Das, Bankura University
  65. Subhro kumar Mukhopadhyay, Principals (Retd.) WBES
  66. Krishna Adhikari, Kandra Radhakanta Kundu College, Burdwan
  67. Avik Ghosh, Taki Govt College
  68. Kranti Dewan, Calcutta Girls College, CU
  69. Subhajeet Singha, Deshapran Mahavidyalaya
  70. Arpita Rakshit,Seth Anandram Jaipuria College,Kolkata
  71. Indrajit Mukherjee, Nistarini College
  72. Biswajit Mukherjee, Muragachha Govt College
  73. Samik Sen, NBPC Mahavidyalaya
  74. Alo Guha , Seth Anandram Jaipuria College, Kolkata.
  75. Barnali Pain, S. A. Jaipuria College, Kolkata.
  76. Arkajyoti Jana, Calcutta Girls’ College, University of Calcutta, Kolkata
  77. Surajit Barua, Seth Anandram Jaipuria College, Kolkata
  78. Debjani Sengupta, Taki Govt College
  79. Somraj Banerjee, WBES
  80. Debolina Biswas, Gurudas College, University of Calcutta, Kolkatata
  81. Anupama Maitra, Gour Mohan Sachin Mandal Mahavidyalaya, University of Calcutta.
  82. Piyali Gupta, Bethune College,  Kolkata
  83. Sukanta Das, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanabis Mahavidyalaya, Kolkata
  84. Mithu Sinha Ray, Barasat Government College
  85. Barun Naha, SNCW, Kolkata.
  86. Sushovan Chatterjee,WBES.
  87. Arghya Ghosh, W.B.E.S.
  88. Rahul Bhaumik, Women’s College, Calcutta
  89. Swati Moitra, Gurudas College, University of Calcutta
  90. Mousumi Mandal, Presidency University.
  91. Sahanowas sk, W.B.E.S
  92. Adharshila Chatterjee, Women’s Christian College, Kolkata
  93. Mandira Ghissing, Darjeeling Government College
  94. Sarbojit Chatterjee,MAKAUT
  95. Shivam Layek,MAKAUT
  96. Subhabrata Dutta,MAKAUT
  97. Subhojit Maitro,MAKAUT
  98. Arkajit BASU,MAKAUT
  99. Byasdeb Dasgupta, Kalyani University
  100. Soumya Ray,The Bhawanipur Education Society College
  101. Ipsita Chanda, S. A. Jaipuria College
  102. Ipsita Sengupta, Bankura University
  103. Subham Dutta, Gokhale Memorial Girls’ College, Kolkata.
  104. Subarna Biswas, Kalyani University, krishnager
  105. Dhiraj Barman, Presidency University, Kolkata
  106. Sujay Thakur, Gangadharpur Mahavidyamandir, Howrah
  107. Sanchayita Paul Chakraborty, Dr. Meghnad Saha College
  108. Pritha Chakraborty, Maulana Azad College, Kolkata
  109. Pritha Kundu, Hiralal Majumdar Memorial College for Women
  110. Garima Dhabhai, Presidency University, Kolkata
  111. Himadri Chatterjee, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol
  112. Sayantani Adhikary, Sadhan Chandra Mahavidyalaya, South 24 Paraganas
  113. Anjum Parveen, Matiaburj College, Kolkata
  114. Samantak Das, Jadavpur University
  115. Navras J. Aafreedi, Presidency University, Kolkata
  116. Mohuya Bhaumik, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  117. Jaydeep Maity,Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Centenary College, Rahara
  118. Abhik Dasgupta, Mankar College
  119. Samana Madhuri, Chandrakona Vidyasagar Mahavidyalaya
  120. Amit Kumar Das, Mankar College
  121. Akash Biswas, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  122. Mita Dutta, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  123. Azizul Haque, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  124. Rudrajit Sadhu, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  125. Alok Das, WBES
  126. Krishna Kundu, Sreegopal Banerjee College
  127. Swatee Sinha, Swami Dhananjoy Das Kathiababa Mahavidyalaya
  128. Neli Mukherjee, Chhatra Ramai Pandit Mahavidyalaya
  129. Anasuya Bhar, St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College
  130. Kalyan Kumar Das, Presidency University
  131. Probal Dasgupta, retd. Professor, ISI.
  132. Shyamalendu Majumdar, Sivanath Sastri College
  133. Roshan Lal Dewangan, Kazi Nazrul University
  134. Varsha Mitra, Kazi Nazrul University
  135. Sumita Mukhopadhyay, Bethune College
  136. Eesha Moktan, Government General Degree College, Pedong
  137. Pubali Dhar, Calcutta University
  138. Swagata Bhattacharya, S. A. Jaipuria College
  139. Arpita Chakrabarti, Asansol Girls’ College
  140. Amrita Bagchi, Bethune College

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