It has been over a year since Gurjeet Singh Jattana started pursuing a Masters degree in Punjabi at the University of Punjab, but he has yet to visit his own university. Now in his second year, he has given up hope of living a “college life” free from the nuances of everyday struggles.
“I had graduated from DAV College, Bhatinda and college has always been my dream. I was elated when I cleared the entrance, thinking the lock would be lifted soon and I could physically join, but I was wrong, ”said a dejected Gurjeet.
Originally from the Mansa district in the Punjab, he now religiously spends his days studying on his cell phone. “My classes start at 9 am and continue until 3 pm. There is nothing academic about it. It is a robotic voice that gives lectures. I listen to them sometimes, but most of the time I’m scrolling through social media, ”he says.
“Online mode” courses have taken away what it really means to study, he says. “University used to mean friends, coffee, entertainment and study. But in online mode, its zero interaction and one-sided conferences. I don’t even know my classmates, let alone bond with juniors, seniors or strangers.
For Sahil, currently in the second year of a master’s degree in sociology, studies now boil down to obtaining a diploma.
“It’s no longer an experience. It’s just grinding until you get that degree and show everyone that you’ve passed the lockdown and the coronavirus with some semblance of success, ”he says.
For him, his days most often resemble an alternation of household chores and lectures. “Every time I attend class, the family comes in and asks me to do the grocery shopping or do something else. When I tell them that my classes are in progress, they say “mobile chalata rehta hai bas”. That’s what it means to them. There is no benefit to studying like this without exposure and in a vacuum of things that are really college experience, ”Sahil adds.
For Monika, it’s a little more than “university life”. Originally from a small village of Kapro in the Hisar district of Haryana, his containment was difficult to say the least. “I suffer from family and societal pressures every day. Coming from a small village, it’s the icing on the cake, everyone asks me when am I going to get married, ”she says.
She had joined the Masters in Public Administration course in 2019 with the dream of preparing for civil status alongside her courses. But it all came to a screeching halt soon after, as the country went into lockdown and the university closed its doors to students.
“I had to go back to my village. I thought it would be for a little while, but my degree is over and I’m still stuck here, ”she says. Monica has now started preparations for the public service from her home, but is struggling to concentrate.
“Family and neighbors are always discussing something or the other. There are too many issues prevailing. The university has acted as a bubble of it all. But I was plunged back into this life with the advent of the Covid. Studies are a sham here. There is no network, libraries or notes. No innovation, creation and self-development. There are no friends, teachers or opportunities. I feel like I’ve stopped growing and there’s nothing I can do about it, ”she says.
Several thousand of these students are waiting for the universities to open. The University of Punjab, more than a year and a half later, opened its doors on Monday to a group of graduate students in their final year from the University Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Center for Biology of systems and bioinformatics (UIEAST).
A committee was formed by the dean of university education in September to discuss the reopening of the university. The committee has decided that the university will open its doors to students on a gradual basis. Several students, meanwhile, have been demonstrating since March this year, a demonstration that they resumed after the second wave of June 1, demanding the opening of the university but to no avail.