Intensifying their agitation demanding cancellation of exams, degree, post-graduation, engineering, diploma and pharmacy students in Karnataka boycotted their online classes on Saturday. Students from a total of 42 renowned colleges boycotted classes, including institutions such as APS College of Commerce, Atria Institute, University Vishveswaraya College of Engineering, Brindavan, APS Polytechnic, SJ Polytechnic, Vidyavardhaka Sangha in Bengaluru, according to the All India Democratic Students' Organisation (AIDSO), which is leading the movement. Additionally, AIDSO said that including smaller institutions, the overall number of boycotted institutions is over 100. The students of these courses are demanding that the government cancel exams for their previous or odd semester. Additionally, they are demanding that the government must provide two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine free to students before conducting offline classes or examinations.
Currently, the students of these courses are faced with a situation where they will have to write the exams for two semesters within a very short span of time. This difficult circumstance was created as the odd semester exams of several universities were to be conducted when Karnataka went into lockdown on April 27. With the possibility of any physical examinations ruled out due to the lockdown, the classes for the next or even semester were started. After Karnataka started to ease restrictions, Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayana announced that exams will be conducted for these students. â€śSemester exams need to be conducted soon & VCs are planning it,â€ť he tweeted.
Semester exams need to be conducted soon & VCs are planning it. We plan to have evening colleges in metro cities & are exploring options to launch inter-disciplinary programs in some colleges of VTU. Pursuit of excellence & quality with social consciousness should be our aim.â€” Dr. Ashwathnarayan C. N. (@drashwathcn) June 15, 2021
The agitation has been going on for 10 days with students resorting to various methods of protest. They had initially protested on June 23 with the two demands. Not getting a response from the government, they resorted to submitting memorandums to several legislators, including Revenue Minister R Ashoka, and Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar.
Further, the studentsâ€™ struggle committee and AIDSO had organised a webinar in which several educational experts and former university vice chancellors (VC) spoke, including Dr Prabhudev (former VC of Bangalore University) and Dr Chidananda (former VC of Kuvempu University). All the speakers stressed on the importance of getting all the students fully vaccinated before conducting any physical classes or examinations. They also unanimously agreed that conducting exams in the current circumstance is a bad idea. Dr Prabhudev said, â€śAmid the current situation, conducting exams is not just a danger to studentsâ€™ lives but also the same as inviting the third wave.â€ť
Several students that TNM spoke to also expressed worries about attending physical classes without getting both doses of the vaccine. â€śWe have seen how people died when the second wave struck. We are definitely not ready to risk our lives for these exams. Also, first-year diploma students are not 18 and many wonâ€™t be able to get the vaccine. Even for those who are eligible, we havenâ€™t even heard if there is going to be a vaccination drive from our college and honestly, looking at the vaccine shortage all around, I think we will be fools to believe that they will vaccinate us in the timeframe they have committed,â€ť said Arya (name changed on request), a diploma student from Dayananda Sagar Polytechnic College in Bengaluru.
Girish, a degree student from Chikkaballapur, said, â€śThey conducted a vaccination drive in our college but most students had to come from far-off villages and there was no proper bus service. What are they supposed to do?â€ť
When asked about what kind of difficulty they would face having to write two exams, Girish said, â€śOur even semester portions are not completed yet and by the time it is done and they declare an exam date for the odd semester, it will be at least mid-August. And, if we see when they started the even semester classes, it was May. So, the even semester exam will have to come around September, because the semesters have been shortened due to the time lost when the first wave struck. Basically, we will have to write two exams within a gap of one month. How is it feasible?â€ť
The online class boycott also saw very good response in other districts of Karnataka, according to AIDSO. In a statement they said, â€śColleges under Gulbarga University, Bellary Sri Krishnadevaraya University, Dharwad University, Bijapur University have been witness to complete boycott of online classes.â€ť
The statement further warned, â€śIf the government and universities don't respond to our demands, we will be forced to intensify our struggle.â€ť