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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

‘Each student virtually an island now’: College graduation season sees a wave of disappointment in pandemic

Many institutions have even ditched virtual convocation ceremonies, opting to send degree certificates and final-year mark-sheets to students by post.

Thiruvanathapuram |
July 14, 2021 4:40:40 pm
new batch, college students 2021, covid college life,Students also said they found it quite difficult to transition from their usual offline classes to online. (Representative Image)

Written by Riya Joseph

With the Covid-19 pandemic entering a second year, students in India who are on the cusp of graduation and post-graduation are an unhappy lot. If they began their education on a cheerful note in classrooms, unfortunately, they are looking at winding up their college years alone at home, participating in virtual passing-out functions and staring at an uncertain future riddled with economic challenges.

“I remember clearly it was on a Wednesday afternoon that our professor said, ‘this is going to be your last class. We’re going to end it here and in two weeks, your exams are starting.’ I don’t know how two years just passed by as I sat at home,” said 20-year-old Sandra Rozario, a final year B.Com student from Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram.

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Reminiscing the first lockdown in March last year, she said, “We all thought it would be just 10 days. We’re going to sit in our homes and then just come back and everything is going to be fine. But then, that didn’t happen. Then, we thought at least in the final year, we’ll get to go to college and attend classes but even that didn’t happen. So after a point, we just gave up hope.”

Varsha PS, an engineering student from LBS Institute of Technology in Thiruvananthapuram, echoed similar sentiments, “I don’t think I had a final year. I am very much disappointed. I had felt empowered going to college. I felt like I discovered a part of me that I didn’t even know existed. This space is where I learnt what life is.”

“We are getting an online farewell. It will be us 49 students and our staff advisor. They will call out our names and felicitate us. There would be no other interaction. Most of the time, I think our cameras will be switched off. It’s not going to be as fun as an offline (function).”

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Many institutions have even ditched virtual convocation ceremonies, opting to send degree certificates and final-year mark-sheets to students by post.

Ravi Sankar, a student at the Mar Baselios College in Thiruvananthapuram said, “The previous batch didn’t get a graduation ceremony, so I don’t think we’re getting ours as well. And an online graduation ceremony wouldn’t feel right even if we were to get one.”

Mahima Mary Mathews, who teaches engineering students at Cochin University of Science and Technology, said, “When you take up a course, you look forward to the day when you complete it. These students are actually missing out on that sense of accomplishment, like they have done something. Already, the industry is questioning whether their degree is valuable. On top of that, they are losing the chance of at least living a day they feel like they have accomplished something.”

Students also said they found it quite difficult to transition from their usual offline classes to online.

“I found it difficult to concentrate during online classes. Maybe because I’m not used to it. In my opinion, we should transition back to offline because of the live teacher-student interactions. Also, not everyone will have the facilities for online classes,” said Siddhart MG, a soon-to-be graduate from the Government Engineering College in Barton Hill.

Kaikasi V S, a professor at the department of English at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram, added, “In the offline mode, the important thing is that you can see the students. You can see their expressions, their reactions and you can easily make out whether they can understand whatever we are saying.” In virtual classes, that’s not possible, she said.

And Dr Manu Remakant, HOD, PG Department of English at the SN College, in Chempazhanthy raised concerns about the potential impact the continued online mode of classes would have on the students.

“This is the time you go out to meet the world and that is not happening. You’re supposed to stay home and go through these online sessions which I find to be unnatural. I fear that this might bring out selfishness, a feeling of self-centeredness among the students. There’s no socializing. They don’t emerge as a class. Each student is virtually an island now,” he said.

Riya Joseph is an intern with and is based in Thiruvananthapuram.

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