The University Grants Commission (UGC) declared the new rules for returning colleges and schools the nation over on Thursday. The colleges across the nation were shut on March 16 to contain the spread of novel Coronavirus and in this way a cross country lockdown was declared on March 25.
As per the new guidelines, universities and colleges outside the containment zone can be opened in a sequential manner after consultation with the respective State/UT Governments. The guidelines have been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Education.
UGC suggests six-day weeks, smaller class-sizes to enable social distancing, however, teaching hours in a day may be extended, as per the institution’s requirements.
“Six-day schedule may be followed so that classes can be conducted in phases and the seating arrangement be made keeping in view the requirements of physical distancing. Universities and colleges may consider reducing the class size and break them in multiple sections to maintain physical distancing during the classes,” read the official statement.
While the Education Ministry had taken a clear stand on not making attendance compulsory for school students, there are no clear-cut directions in the UGC guidelines. It only states, “Some students may opt not to attend classes and prefer to study online while staying at home. Institutions may provide online study material and access to e-resources to such students for teaching-learning.”
“Institutions should have a plan ready for such international students who could not join the programme due to international travel restrictions or visa-related issues. Online teaching-learning arrangements should also be made for them,” the guidelines further state.
Aside from standard precautions such as regular disinfection of institution premises and temperature screening of teachers and students on campus, higher education institutions will end up remaining open for longer hours for six days a week to accommodate students in batches and ensure social distancing.
Wearing a mask is mandatory for all teachers and staff on campus. A class will be broken up into multiple sections, with each section attending in-person lessons on rotation basis. “The visitors should either not be allowed at all or their entry should be drastically restricted,” the guidelines states.
Cultural activities and meetings will be avoided. However, extra-curricular and sports activities may be allowed where physical distancing is possible.