DU colleges look to bridge digital divide with data packs, fee waivers
New delhi: Beginning from one-to-one interactions with students to keeping an eye on their mental wellbeing and providing fee support, technological infrastructure and other material to those in need, colleges under the Delhi University here are stepping up efforts to help students during the pandemic, especially after a 19-year-old undergraduate student at the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College killed herself, citing a lack of funds to continue classes online.
According to Lady Sri Ram college Principal Suman Sharma, the college administration has announced a reduction in fees for a few courses, setting up a committee to provide laptops and allowed some second-year students to reside in hostels.
"Given the fact that students are not able to avail certain facilities of the college due to being off-campus, the college has removed such charges from the fees this year. This has led to a substantial reduction in the fee. In addition, it is possible to pay the fee in installments," she said.
"Keeping in mind the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, current second year students upon fresh application and on the basis of need will be allowed to stay in the hostel after the commitments to incoming first years and the current third years, who already are in the hostel, have been met," he added.
Miranda House Principal Bijaylaxmi Nanda said the college is working on facilitating internet data packs to students on whom the burden has increased due to classes moving online during the pandemic.
"We realised it during the first month of lockdown only that just online classes will not be enough and equal attention will have to be paid to mental wellness. We took some steps but we will increase our efforts now and focus on one-on-one interactions," Nanda said.
"We are exploring options for offering financial support to students not just in terms of fee waiver but to provide internet data cards as well to help in online classes," she added.
The staff association of St Stephen's college has also approached the college principal, demanding the setting up of a committee to reach out to students facing monetary issues.
"As we are all aware, the pandemic has caused great distress in society. There is an increased financial hardship and some of our students are facing genuine difficulties in accessing online classes and paying the fees," staff association president Nandita Narain said.
According to Simrit Kaur, the principal of Shri Ram College of Commerce, the college has been receiving requests for scholarships and laptops since the lockdown.
"There are a few students who had their own devices but there were a few who needed help with laptops, we have tried facilitating each student with the kind of help they needed. We are also providing round-the-clock counselling services to students so that if there is any issue it can be addressed timely," Kaur said.
Aishwarya, a student of the Lady Sri Ram (LSR) College for Women and an IAS aspirant, was found hanging at her Shadnagar house in Telangana's Ranga Reddy district on November 2.
In a suicide note purportedly written by her, the 19-year-old said she did not want to burden her parents with her educational expenses, police said.
The second-year BSc Mathematics (Honours) student had returned to Telangana from Delhi in March after those staying in the hostel were asked to go home by the college authorities in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.