The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is awaiting the government’s directions on reopening educational institutes that were closed in March when the measures to curb the Covid-19 spread were introduced. JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar spoke to Amandeep Shukla about his plans for reopening the university, and issues like the post-Covid-19 life, the pandemic, online learning, digital divide, etc. Edited excerpts:
How has JNU coped with the Covid-19 pandemic?
The [Covid-19] lockdown was enforced strictly by sealing gates and restricting movement. JNU has been able to not only shield itself from any outside social contact but made the most of social distancing by getting digitally closer to the world. Academically, JNU showed its responsibility by holding online classes, organising over 100 webinars, and discussions. To help the nation’s fight against Covid-19, JNU made a substantial contribution to the PM CARES [the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations] Fund by voluntary deductions from salaries...
How would you respond to criticism of online education given the digital divide?
While a majority of our students are participating in online academic activities, we are aware that some may not have good connectivity to access lectures and participate in the online evaluation. For all such students, the university has decided to conduct lectures and evaluations when they return.
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When do you plan to reopen the university for regular teaching?
Our initial plan was to open the university from July 1. We planned to conduct special lectures and evaluations from July 1 to July 31 for all students, who could not be part of the online academic activities... However, the actual date of reopening will depend on how the Covid-19 situation evolves and if we are going to get any new guidelines.
Do you plan tie-ups with hospitals to tackle any emergency situations?
We have formed a Covid-19 task force, which issues guidelines from time to time. The campus community has been very cooperative. We have a good health centre and two ambulances are available 24/7.
What will change for JNU, which has a very lively campus?
Life is going to be different for all of us primarily to protect ourselves and also to ensure that a second wave of infections should not affect us. Particularly in common areas, we will be taking precautions to maintain safety and health. Our sanitary section, too, is actively involved in maintaining the hostels and other places.