The teachers and students of NEHU in Shillong have sought Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank’s intervention into issues faced by them related to online classes.
North-Eastern Hill University Teachers’ Association (NEHUTA) and North-Eastern Hill University Students’ Union (NEHUSU), Shillong Campus in a joint letter to the HRD minister have raised several issues related to online classes.
The NEHU teachers and students’ bodies said due to the lockdown in Meghalaya, all the students, both hostellers and day-scholars have returned to their respective homes.
While some of the students hail from the city, most of them are from far-off villages.
“During a time when almost all the states are in lockdown, the NEHU administration has taken a step towards ‘online classes’,” the letter said.
The innovative idea of online classes to remain in touch with the ongoing teaching, on principle is rather novel but has brought up various genuine issues with the students, the joint letter said.
Stating that the students are facing a number of adverse factors, the teachers and students’ bodies alleged: “First of all, the NEHU administration has imposed online classes without consulting the Academic Council.”
“It has not consulted students and teachers through their statutory representative bodies like NEHUTA and NEHUSU,” they asserted.
Both the bodies pointed out in earlier letters many genuine difficulties of online teaching-learning processes, to which the University administration remains “unresponsive”.
They said “online classes using Google classroom and WhatsApp” are “invalid since it does not have a teacher-student interaction”.
“It is unfair to expect the same level of concentration and involvement as in the classroom,” the letter said.
They also said focusing on online learning “might further deprive many students of quality education”.
“An online class is equivalent to the distance mode of learning in which our University doesn’t offer such mode of study,” the NEHU teachers and students’ bodies mentioned.
Most of the students do not have proper digital access through smartphones and other such electronic devices to attend to lectures and receive notes supplied to them by the teachers on such a platform, they claimed.
The letter also said “there are some departments that are directing students to give compulsory morning attendance on a daily basis”.
This hinders the meaning of a “noncompulsory online class”, they said.
Many students are being “deprived of such classes” since numerous numbers of students are staying in the areas with poor or even no internet connection at all, the letter said.
In the letter NEHUTA and NEHUSU also said due to the “frequent thunderstorms that are taking place over the weeks” in Meghalaya and its neighbouring states, the network remains poor and inconsistent even in the city.
Due to such weather condition, the “students are not able to even connect to the internet properly”, they said.
In addition, due to the thunderstorms, “electric supply has also been erratic”.
They also said all students might not have laptops or tablet or computers.
In such circumstances, as the teachers and the students are not able to involve themselves fully, they said “the present online courses cannot be accepted as completion of the course”.
They reminded that the UGC-appointed expert committee suggested “completion of the 25% of the course only in the online mode”.
“Further insistence by University on giving a filled up format only complicated life in difficult lockdown times without any secretarial and office support,” said the letter.
The letter has been signed by NEHUTA president Prof. Xavier P. Mao, general secretary Dr. Marbhador M. Khymdeit and NEHUSU president Yshua Lyngdoh and general secretary Teilang Rymbai.