While our public universities have already reopened halls and libraries and have more or less fixed the dates of reopening their respective institutions, the private universities of the country are yet to finalize when to resume in-person classes, because a majority of their students are yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19. According to a report in this daily, more than 70 percent of the students have registered for the jabs until now but only around 40 percent of them have received the first dose of the vaccine. And the universities cannot resume on-campus classes until both their teachers and students have gotten at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine or are registered to get the vaccines, as per the directive of the University Grants Commission.
While we understand that the private universities do not want to take any hurried decision about resuming in-person classes, since it involves both the teachers' and students' safety, we also think that they should take proactive measures to make the vaccination process easier for their pupils.
We have also learned that many of the private universities are planning to hold classes and exams online for several more months, even if they fix the dates for on-campus classes. We think this is a judicious decision because our universities cannot simply go back to the old method of teaching in the post-pandemic situation, rather they should go for some kind of a blended/hybrid teaching method, meaning that they should continue with online education alongside classroom education. That's the lesson the pandemic has taught us.
However, while it would be easier for the private universities to go for a kind of blended learning, it will not be as easy for the public universities to do so because of the existing digital divide. We have seen how our public universities struggled to conduct online classes in the past one year and a half because of a lack of access of their students to the necessary devices and internet connections. We think both the private and public university authorities need to work on how they can reduce this digital divide in the future. Coming back to the issue of resuming in-person classes in the private universities, the government should set up vaccination centres on the campuses to speed up the inoculation process of students. The private university authorities should discuss the issue with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to make the vaccination process easier as well. Private universities should resume in-person classes as soon as possible, considering the safety and well-being of their students.