COVID-19: Frustration grips students of public universities

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    Roton Malo

    Students of public universities apparently looked very happy after they went on holiday after the closure of all academic activities in March 2020, but sooner the pandemic situation intensified an uncertainty regarding academic life and career grew among them.

    Although students got some hope as the COVID-19 situation started improving in early September and the country’s road, air and river communications resumed, the authorities of public universities took no specific decision over opening the universities after maintaining social distancing.

    The sparking hope diminished by time thanks to the absence of any directives from the authorities. A strident frustration has gripped the students of the public universities as their dreamt careers are about to see a fresh one-year delay thanks to the pandemic.

    Most of the public universities including Dhaka University and Rajshahi University remained shut for over seven months until now and all the residential halls of the universities were also made vacant as soon as the university was shut on March 18. 

    Supposed to be an outgoing student by the end of 2020, but stuck at home and departed from all academic activities, K A M Shakib, Masters student of the Department of Law at Rajshahi University, told: “Some kind of confusion and frustration grappled my dreamt career.”

    “It’s really hard to decide now, should I stop study or start a job for survival?” said Shakib adding that students from middle-income families suffering most during this pandemic.

    Asked about Masters final year’s examination, Shakib said “I’m really confused at this very first stage of choosing a career.”

    On November 2, the University Grants Commission (UGC) allowed private university students who are in their final semester to attend practical classes and examinations in person after maintaining physical distancing and health guidelines.

    According to UGC directives, viva-voce would be held virtually and not more than one class or exam can be taken on each day and a maximum of 10 students can attend each class.

    Although guidelines and directives were given to private universities to start classes and arranging examinations maintaining physical distancing, the public universities apparently look ignored in this regard.

    Asked about the mental status of the students of public universities, Afsana Chowdhury, a student of Sociology Faculty at Dhaka University, said “Very few people can understand the mental status of the students of public universities right now.”

    She questioned the authority of DU that “If private universities can start academic activities, what are public university authorities doing?”

    “Everything has been going smoothly in the country,” said Afsana raising a question that will the COVID-19 situation be intensified only if public universities open?

    Hefzur Rahman Emon, Masters student of Chittagong University’s Law Department, said “We’re in a paradox as our Masters examination is still to be arranged.”
    It would be great, if the exam could be arranged by the university right now, said Emon adding that “Covid-19 has changed all of my career plans that forced me to be in frustration for the moment.”

    Asked about UGC’s guidelines for private universities about conducting classes & exams maintaining physical distancing, Emon said “The authority of public universities should also give a guideline for us because we’re already one year back and surely stuck in an academic session jam.”

    Shiuly Tanchangya, Honors Final Year, Sociology Department, Chittagong University, said she appeared five examinations of her Honors final year when the university was shut and couldn’t sit for the rest of the examinations.

    Asked about her mental status during the pandemic, Shiuly stated that “Indeed I have been going through a mental stress.”

    “I’m a bit frustrated about my career, and passing days reading newspapers and looking for job adverts although I haven’t yet completed graduation,” said Shiuly adding that “A year is gone from my life without any academic activities.”

    Earlier on October 29, the government extended the closure of all educational institutions of the country till November 14 in a bid to restrict the further spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

    Anjuman Ara Anu, recently got a full free scholarship for her Phd from the University of Yamanashai, Japan, said “I’ve been deferred from October 2020 session to April, 2021 session due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Phd Student Anu had been attached to Glass & Ceramics Engineering Department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) as a research assistant.

    “COVID-19 pandemic is supposed to snatch a semester from my academic life,” Anu added.

    Monika Debi Tanchangya, 3rd-year student, of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science & Technology University, said “I’ve been attending classes online regularly during the pandemic and most of the students also attend.”

    However, some of my classmates do not have android phone to attend the class, said Monika adding that the university authority has taken their list to provide android phones but still they didn’t get it.

    Until November 6 (Friday), Bangladesh registered 6,036 deaths from COVID-19 and 417,475 coronavirus cases so far while 331,197 of them have recovered.

    The country reported its first coronavirus cases on March 8 and the first death from it on March 18.