A few days later the return to college There are already, this Tuesday, September 15, more than a dozen outbreaks of contamination on French campuses. Parties and festive gatherings off campus are sometimes singled out due to the spread of the virus. The start of the school year is obviously being carefully scrutinized in other countries. Direction Spain, Tunisia and India.
In Spain, a staggered start to the academic year
More than 1.6 million students are preparing to experience a university year that is atypical to say the least. Each region has its own calendar, since the regions are responsible for education. In Madrid, for example, the new school year started at some public and private universities on September 7. And it will last until the end of the month. The purpose of this staggered start is to avoid student gatherings and to see how the epidemic will develop. In addition, the teaching will be done, for the moment, according to a model called “hybrid”. In general, the theoretical courses will be followed remotely, while the tutorials will be carried out in person. The capacity of the classrooms will also be halved to ensure physical distancing. This distance is one of the key words in this return. Wearing a mask is compulsory everywhere inside campuses and not just in classrooms.
Access of students in the online course depends on the means of each university. Public faculties are less well off. This situation has been denounced many times by the student unions during the confinement. And that is why the Madrid region recently announced that it intends to invest 40 million euros in this area to modernize these public universities. The aim is that they can thus guarantee quality online education. We’ll see if it’s just an announcement effect. For now, a student strike is scheduled in Spain on September 16, 17 and 18.
In Tunisia, the health protocol suffers from a lack of resources
The start of the academic year is under high tension. The country is affected by the virus as it has never been before. Since the opening of the borders at the end of June, the number of cases has continued to increase. The worry is really there. Here, the buildings are often old, cramped. It is very complicated to respect social distancing. There is a lack of water in establishments for regular hand washing. There are also not enough masks for students who cannot afford them. Finally, university hostels are perhaps the places that raise the most concern because thousands of students from interior regions affected by the Covid will flock to the big cities, mainly Tunis where one in two universities is located.
The Tunisian Human Rights League criticized the government for imposing a start to university despite the current epidemiological situation. She believes the government is simply putting people’s lives at risk. Suddenly, calls to quickly organize distance learning courses are increasing. Except that here too, we again come up against the means available. A lot of students don’t have a computer. The start of the academic year coincides with the start of the primary and secondary schools. Everyone resumes lessons at the same time. This further increases the risks and increases the difficulties for the authorities. Tunisia is somewhat in a situation of no choice. Tunisian students have stopped taking classes for six months because of the virus.
In India, faculty buildings remain closed
The start of the academic year is done entirely online. There are therefore glaring inequalities between rich students and those who are not. The re-entry usually takes place in early August in India and it went well for private universities. These are relatively expensive and more often than not students are well equipped with computers to take courses online. The quality of these lessons, which had to be adapted on the internet, is of course not as good as in face-to-face, and this worries some. Many Indian students who planned to study abroad have already had to give up on this project. But the real problem concerns the public faculties which are less well organized and equipped. Their poorer students often don’t have good computers for distance learning. Some have stayed with their families in the countryside where electricity cuts are regular.
This crisis therefore only accentuates the gap between rich and poor students. Some students have not yet been able to take their end-of-year exams. While private universities quickly conducted online exams between May and June, other public universities were unable to impose it completely on their students due to lack of equipment. The prestigious University of Delhi is just finishing, with four months late, the face-to-face exams for 20% of its students who have chosen this option. And in the provinces, other students are still waiting for their end-of-year exams.