Semesters just 90 days long, improper evaluations and strict gender segregation are just some of the problems students face.

Academic lapses regressive policing Grievances of Keralas Fatima Mata grow
news Education Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 20:08

For the students of Fatima Mata National College in Kollam, protest outside a closed college is the only recourse available. After all, when the students submitted a list of 16 grievances to principal Vincent B Netto on March 10, the principal allegedly closed the college rather than giving the students a chance to disrupt its functioning with a strike. 

The students say that among the multiple grievances they have with the running of the college, the most significant are their academic grievances. Unlike most other colleges affiliated with the University of Kerala, they point out, the duration of a semester at Fatima Mata is a mere 90 days. And in that short period of time, they have to appear for two internal exams instead of one exam. 

“This makes it tough for us as well as for the teachers. We don’t get time to learn properly, and the teachers don’t get to teach thoroughly. Also, the average score of the two internal exams is being added to the final score. If we haven’t performed well in any one of these, that would affect our final score. This is not the practice followed in any other college affiliated to the University,” says Ria Mary Jojo Chairperson of the college union.

The students also allege that the college is explicitly transgressing university rules by having teachers of the college itself conduct external evaluations. “The teachers of the college have admitted to us that they are doing the external evaluation as well, when there is strict instruction from the University that it should be done in an evaluation camp only in the presence of teachers from outside,” added Ria, a final semester Psychology student.

Besides their academic grievances, the students are also up in arms against the regressive gender segregation rules that the college maintains. Although a co-education institute, the college strictly segregates men and women students. Indeed, it has demarcated a single quadrangle at the back of the college as the only space that women students can occupy during non-class hours. 

“There are girl students who haven’t ever seen the front side of the college as the teachers would scold us if they happen to see us outside the quadrangle during the leisure time,” says a fourth semester Mathematics student.

Even the canteen for women students is separate from that of the men students. At college events, only women students are allowed to sit in the balcony of the college auditorium.  “During a college Union Day, when we (women students) performed a dance on stage, the college authorities asked us to write an assurance that we won’t dance again,” she said.

The students say that this level of segregation in a college that is already overpopulated with CCTV cameras is ridiculous. While the University instructs that CCTV cameras should be set up only at the entrance and exit, the authorities at Fatima Mata have installed cameras across the campus, even outside the men’s toilet in the college, the students allege. “We are not against the quadrangle system. But it’s ridiculous to insist that the girls should never sit with boys students even at open places,” said one third semester psychology student.

Besides segregating students, the college management also excessively polices them, students allege. One of their major grievances in this context is that the main gate of the college is locked after 10am, and no students are allowed to enter afterward. The authorities also regularly send messages to parents of students complaining of their absence from class even when they have been present, allege the students.

The students say that their protest also includes the demand for basic infrastructure in the college, including hygienic toilets and fans and lights in classrooms. “However our major demand is for the academic issues to be redressed,” said a psychology student, adding that some media reports have made light of their grievances. “Some media outlets have reported that we are protesting for the right of girls to wear legging,” he said.

Students say that when they first presented their list of 16 grievances to Principal Netto, he first agreed to them. However, he then changed his mind, closing down the college to prevent the students from protesting. Now, the students have also added the demand that the college be reopened immediately, so that their academic careers not suffer as a result.

However the college principal said that the issues raised by the students are flimsy. "They have been misguided by someone on the duration of the semester. We follow the rules which are followed by all quality institutions in the matter of internal exam. We sought the students time to discuss the issues with PTA. But they were not ready to wait and began the protest," he told TNM. 

Update: The strike has been called off after the management agreed to most of the demands by students. 

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