Published: 21st April 2021
Why JNU students are accusing JNUSU, JNUTA of 'lackadaisical' attitude, apathy for large number of dropouts
Responding to the allegations put forward by the BAPSA, JNUSU Vice-President Saket Moon said that it isn't a reasonable assessment at all
An RTI enquiry filed by a student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University has revealed that 45 MA students and 53 MPhil students from the School of Social Sciences have quit their courses from 2019 to March 2021. While a major reason, the students and teachers say, might be the lack of access to online education as far as 2020 is concerned, the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students' Association (BAPSA) has accused the JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) and the Teachers' Association (JNUTA) of being "lackadaisical" in their approach and dealing with the administration.
The RTI filed by JNUSU Councillor Anagha Pradeep revealed that 23 MA students and 28 MPhil students dropped out in 2019-20 while 22 MA students and 25 MPhil students discontinued their course in 2020-21 — all from the School of Social Sciences. "More than 75 per cent of students who had discontinued their studies in the period, are from the marginalised communities of the society," said Anagha. While the RTI reply does not specify the reason behind the dropouts, students and teachers attributed the majority of the dropouts to lack of internet connection at home for the students which made it difficult for them to attend classes or even appear for online exams. "If you see this in conjunction with surveys conducted about access and availability of resources from last year, conducted both by teachers and students, you will see that these dropouts are a direct consequence of absolutely no help from the administration in facilitating access to research resources through the library or by other means," said Apeksha Priyadarshini, JNUSU Convenor from the School of Arts and Aesthetics.
BAPSA though said that the exclusion started much before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown widened the gap, it has always been there. "From the UGC 2016 Gazette to seat cut, 100 per cent viva-voce, to fee hike movement, introduction of online education — all of these point towards how these policies are systematically designed to oust the Bahujans from the higher educational institutions," read a statement from them, adding that there is not much difference between the Left-dominated JNUSU, JNUTA and the BJP government. "BAPSA has led strong opposition against all of these draconian measures. It is clearly evident from the lackadaisical attitudes of both, JNUSU and JNUTA, that the centre led by the BJP government, and in the JNU, left-led student union are only complementary to each other. Instead of protecting the careers of many students, JNUSU has only used the movements to fulfil their political aspirations...It is extremely disheartening how JNUSU has hardly shown any concern towards this alarming issue of dropouts. We also warn the left-led JNUSU to take immediate and effective steps to safeguard the aspirations of first-generation university graduates," it further added.
BAPSA President Om Prakash said that they just want the students to be able to continue education and that the union snd state governments are not doing enough. "We need to reach a solution. We need to come to a negotiable point where those who do not have access to the internet can somehow submit their assignments. The JNUSU is our medium to put our demands in front of the administration. But they are steadfast in their decision of boycotting classes. We can even give our assignments over the phone. The teachers can take verbal assessments. But the students should not lose a year," he added.
Responding to the allegations put forward by the BAPSA, JNUSU Vice-President Saket Moon said that it isn't a reasonable assessment at all. "First of all, the onus of any student dropping out lies solely with the JNU Administration. The JNUSU has held numerous protests and delegations to highlight the issue and counter it, even this particular data was brought to light through an RTI filed by a JNUSU Councillor Anagha Pradeep. It is the Central government and the JNU Administration's agenda to push the online mode through the pandemic which is causing the exclusion of students. To then not even acknowledge the above seems to give the administration the benefit of doubt while placing the blame on the union, all for the sake of petty political point-scoring during the pandemic and this academic crisis is not only immature but also strengthens the position of the JNU administration," Saket added.
The BAPSA statement also added that they demand all such students whose career is at stake must be identified by the concerned authorities and the "registration for those opting for offline mode of the examination must be restored with an immediate effect while providing them all required facilities including hostel accommodation to complete their academic requirements". "PWD students should be provided with proper assistance and scribes to navigate the present situation. The students who are yet to complete their exams must be provided with provisional/extended registration for at least six months to complete the requirements to get their degrees once the pandemic comes to an end. Since the data has only come from SSS, BAPSA also demands that surveys be conducted in all the centres and schools to find out the exact number of students who have been thrown out because of the exclusionary model of online education," it added.
JNUTA Secretary Dr Moushumi Basu said that she empathises with the frustrated students but there is only so much that they JNUTA can do with an "unresponsive" administration. "I understand and accept the criticism. But what can we do when we have an administration that does not listen?" she asked and added, "With the second wave of COVID and all the new restrictions in place, coming back to hostels is out of the question. But we are speaking to students to help them in however way we can," she added.
In the meantime, a fund-raising initiative has been set up on Monday by the JNUSU members of the School of Arts and Aesthetics to help students pursuing a master's degree at the school who have been attending online classes since the beginning of the academic year due to the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.