Published: 25th November 2020
When will colleges resume culturals, sports and swimming as they slowly begin opening doors after pandemic?
What will campuses look like once they open? And what about sports and activities like swimming? Will students miss it or would they be more than happy to forgo it? We try and find out the answer
If and when colleges open, if and when being the operative word here, we wonder if playgrounds will look desolate, the various collegiate and inter-collegiate events, competitions and much-awaited fests will be all but absent from the calendar year of colleges. How grim. But most educational institutions are ensuring that it's not all doom and gloom in the already dreary and weary academic year. Either by taking their events online or keeping it hybrid. We caught up with a diverse set of faculty members who contribute to the environment on campus — from Head of Student Affairs to student counsellors — to find out if and when the students get back to college, how will the campus look like?
With seven annual events, 14-15 clubs who have their own set of 2-3 events annually, SRM Institute of Science and Technology (SRMIST), Chennai is bustling with happening events that keep the energy alive. And indeed, these form an important part of the students' experience at college, pandemic notwithstanding. The good folk at SRMIST understand this conundrum hence, though they have taken most of their events online, they have novel plans for their upcoming inter-college Talent Hunt. "For the competition, we are planning to invite five to six teams, instead of the usual 20, from other colleges and have them perform their bit in our huge auditorium with no audience," says D Rajiv, Manger, Student Affairs. But the hoots and the applause of the audience is such a huge part of any artists' performance. How will that be compensated? Pat comes the reply, "Not only will it be streamed on YouTube, but we will also upload photos or short videos on our social media pages and the reactions of our followers should make up for it." Now that's an alternative. They are also planning to execute their smaller events in the hostel in a socially-distanced manner.
SRMIST is going to spread awareness regarding COVID in the five villages that they have adopted
The truth is that a large number of students want to return because they're missing out on all these extra-curricular activities. Dean of Students' Welfare Mukesh Kumar Barua at IIT Roorkee tells us about their busy online counselling sessions and how issues like no consistent internet connection, anxiety and studying amidst the hustle and bustle of a joint family are the most frequently shared queries. "Most of them want to come back to campus," he says. PhD researchers, especially those who are working on experiments, are back to campus already. But even when they do come back, the mandatory quarantine period is getting the better of some of them. "Some of them don't want to be quarantined and our counsellors and psychiatrists are in constant touch with them. We even have one student residing outside the campus and have given him access to his department," he points out.
When students sign up for a college, they sign up for the college experience. And so, Malvinder Gill, Assistant Director and Deputy Dean, HoD, Counselling and Happiness Cell, Lovely Professional University (LPU), says that there is no doubt about the fact that most students want to come back to campus. So how do we mentally prepare them for the time that they do return? "We need to build resilience in them. And why just students? They and the faculty members too need specific training so that they are able to cope with coming back to a campus that is very different," she says, She also asserts that she is encouraged by the fact that mental health is at the fore again. "We have been running after working hard, amassing wealth or marks and ignoring our mental health for so long. This has been a much-needed awakening.” Talking about increased screen time, she says that most students are mighty happy with video calls and text and have no qualms about connecting via gadgets. So in this context, while they are not necessarily missing 'connections', what will happen post-COVID? "The human mind is powerful, it can learn to adapt," she affirms. “We are aware that the pandemic can exacerbate mental health issues among students. It can lead to an increase in fear and stress. There can be anxiety about potential exposure to infection as they interact with others. On the other hand, some students may feel isolated and lonely with distancing measures in place. Hence, the college has taken some critical steps to ensure that students receive all the support during their stay at the campus. We have a tie-up with a private Hospital in the vicinity of around one km for emergencies. We have qualified psychologist counsellors for providing mental health care to students. Our IT team is working towards a portal for helpline numbers. The college will also take steps to arrange for outside help if need be,” says Joel Gibbs, Assistant Counsellor Psychologist, SVKM's NMIMS Deemed-to-be University.
IIIT Hyderabad has opened its gym too and are taking utmost care to ensure regular sanitisation
Coming back to the state of playgrounds, International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad's (IIIT-H) is game for students to play tennis, badminton, football and other sports. "Our BTech and MTech students who are back on campus are very eager to play and we think it's essential. Mental strength to fight challenges and keep fit comes from sports. It is as important for mental wellbeing as it is for physical fitness, both of which are much needed in today's times," says Kamalakar KS, Head, Physical Education. And as someone who created a whole series of YouTube videos for students to stay fit while staying in, he is more than happy to have them back on the field on their campus. Of course, while being mindful of their hygiene and so on.
"There are two types of people who use pools, professional swimmers and fitness enthusiasts. Professionals might come back early as that's their sport but others may take time," opines Dr Gaganendu Dash, Director, Sports, KIIT, Odisha as far as swimming is considered. He also reasons that many might stay away due to the risk of contamination in pools.