Students have been protesting since July 17 as the student intake increased without expansion of hostels and other facilities.

Kerala Central Uni shuts classes over hostel protest senior students turn teachers for juniors
news Protest Sunday, July 23, 2017 - 18:35

At Kasargode’s Central University of Kerala, a protest by students seems to have turned many things upside down. Since July 19, classes have been suspended at the University following a protest by students over the administration’s failure to provide hostel accommodation to students of various post-graduate courses.

Strangely, however, it isn’t the students who have gone on strike, but the administration which has suspended all classes for an indefinite period. And with professors not taking classes, the senior students themselves are organising lectures for the juniors.

It all started with protests organised by students from July 17. The protesting students alleged that the administration had increased the intake for various PG courses without ensuring that the necessary facilities were available for accommodating the extra students.

For the 2017-2018 admissions, the intake for Social Science courses was increased by 26, while 14 seats were added for the Sciences. However, no expansion of infrastructure was taken in view of the increase in student strength.

In doing so, the University is in violation of the existing UGC norms laid down in 2003, which require universities to upgrade infrastructure before increasing students strength, said a PhD scholar who wished to remain anonymous.

“The classes for the freshers’ began two weeks ago and there may be an intake of more students after the spot admissions, which are yet to be done,” he said.

The students had not given a call for a strike, however, because it was not their wish for classes to be disrupted.”We were keen that the protest should not affect the studies,” said the student.

However, he alleged, the Vice Chancellor had reacted to their demand with complete apathy. “The Vice Chancellor, when we approached him with the demand that hostel accommodation should be arranged for the extra students, openly said that those who can’t afford to stay outside need not study here," the student alleged.

Located in the northern-most district of Kerala, the CUK campus is spread over three centres, Padannakkad, Periye and Vidya Nagar. While the University, established in 2010, is yet to develop fully develop its infrastructure, protesting students say that finding safe and affordable accommodation on the outskirts of Kasargode town – which is yet to develop as an urban centre – is very difficult.

“For living outside, a student must pay at least Rs 4,500. The fee for the on-campus hostel is just Rs 2,200 for six months. For female students, it is difficult to go out of the campus after 6pm for safety reasons. There is no bus service in the area after that time,” the PhD scholar said.

Students are currently being accommodated in existing hostel rooms, which has made the rooms very congested, he added.

A student from Thiruvananthapuram who has freshly enrolled for a Social Science said that when students are denied accommodation in the hostel, they are also denied access to the library and other academic services on campus, as students can’t make use of them after class, when they would have to look to returning home instead.

“In the prospectus, it was written that the rooms would be shared by only two students. But in many rooms, three or four students are now staying together. Leave aside the hostel; even the class rooms are congested. A seminar hall has been partitioned and is being used as two class rooms. It is like school now – the class rooms. The reputation of a university depends on the quality of students. But here students with high scores have left the campus, due to the inability to find accommodation,” he said.

However, allege the students, instead of taking their concerns on board, Vice Chancellor Dr G Gopakumar unilaterally shut down classes two days after their protests began. To mitigate the situation, senior students and research scholars have begun to take classes for first-year students outside their locked classrooms. Students have also begun to occupy public spaces on the campus. On Wednesday, the students spent the night sleeping in the University library.

Besides protests, the students also submitted a petition to the Ministry of Human Resources Development on Tuesday with the support of MP P Karunakaran. However, they have received no response to the petition so far.

A first-year student from Kannur said that their protest will continue till their demands are accepted. “We are meeting the VC again on Monday. We will continue our protest till our demand is met. Only the form of it needs to be finalised,” he said.