Published: 16th March 2021
EFLU students continue protest to try and get their hostels opened after COVID layoff
The student body at EFLU has been demanding that the hostel, mess and reading room facilities be reopened for students who were struggling to cope with studies while living outside campus
On March 14, a Sunday evening, students protesting at the English and Foreign Language University (EFLU) in Hyderabad were allegedly manhandled by the police and taken into custody where they claim they were subjected to unfair treatment.
The reason? The students of the University have been protesting on and off for a month demanding that the administration reopen hostels for them. When talks with the members of the administration failed, the students decided to launch a hunger strike, following which the students say the police were called on campus to make them disperse.
The student body at EFLU has been demanding that the hostel, mess and reading room facilities be reopened for students who were struggling to cope with studies while living outside the campus. The varsity has restarted operations after the long COVID layoff, but is yet to reach full operational capacity, “We had three meetings with the administration when that failed, we decided to go on a 24-hour hunger strike. After we started it, the administration called us for a meeting to convince us to call off the protest. However, they weren’t willing to respond to our demands. They warned us about getting the police to take over the situation if we did not call off the protest. But we told the police that if we did not get a positive response after the interaction, we would come back and continue the protest, so when we came out after the meeting, we were taken into custody,” one of the protesting students said.
The students also complained that the police ill-treated them, tearing off a student’s shirt and even shouting at them and telling them to inculcate ‘Indian values’. “We were just peacefully protesting, yet we were manhandled by the police, even the female students were treated badly and we were dragged to the police station where we were questioned for 2-3 hours. They kept asking us unnecessary questions and telling us we did not have Indian values,” one of the students taken into custody said. The students were then let off by the police later that night.
Why do students want back on campus? “What we are demanding is based on a survey we conducted to find out how online exams and the lockdown is affecting students. We are only demanding that the hostels reopen, so that students who are struggling can find a way to get back to a more conducive environment,” a student said. According to the survey, out of the 845 students, there were 522 students who had said they needed the hostel. Among the 207 final year non-PhD students doing dissertation/reading course/practical or research-oriented courses specific to last semester, 138 had said that they needed hostel accommodation.
The students also asked for the different reasons why people wanted to come back to campus. The survey found that 324 students wanted to come back because of the lack of access to books, research material and resources and that access only to online material and PDFs affected research and dissertation work. As many as 229 students said they had a lack of adequate technology, stable network connectivity. The survey also took into consideration other issues that students were facing at home - 34 students with disabilities said that they were living in unfavourable home environments, 109 said that conflicting, abusive relationships at home had resulted in physiological and psychological hurt, 213 said that the home environment had caused or aggravated mental health issues. A whopping 342 said that there was a lack of privacy at home and a distracting and non-academic setting. Not just this, 75 students said that they were facing a lot of pressure to get married and that this had deeply impacted their studies. 71 students had said they suffered due to discriminatory behaviour by people in the locality on the basis of class, caste, gender, religion and sexuality. 93 said they were in financial distress from being compelled to live outside home.
“COVID-19 remains a health hazard and requires preventive measures to be followed. However, the survey has revealed that there are several other far more pressing issues not preventable on an individual level which have been caused primarily due to a prolonged stay in the home environment. Though the hostel environment is not a panacea to all the problems we are facing, the campus environment significantly improves our physical/mental wellbeing as well as works to alleviate the financial stress, especially for the students forced to stay away from their homes due to myriad reasons,” the student body had said in their letter.
The students demanded that the administration allow the access to these facilities, for the students in need, in a phased manner, as per the latest UGC guidelines, which allows up to 50 per cent of total students at any given point of time. “Access to the library and canteen for the students staying outside the campus. The UGC guidelines recommend 14 days of quarantine for the arriving students. This serves as a good measure for deciding the gap between any two phases. Hence, we expect the dates of the successive phases not exceeding the previous ones by more than 3 weeks.As per our last meeting with the proctor and other officials from the administration, we understand that the university should be able to accommodate 20 percent of students in one phase. Hence, we expect there to be a maximum of 3 phases,” the students urged.
“We believe that you will be empathetic to the problems faced by the student community and accept our demands,” the students had requested in this letter. The students say that the administration is not willing to understand their situation, “They say they need more time and that they were worried about students catching the virus. But the UGC has issued regulations and none of us want to get COVID or it isn’t that we are not worried. We of course are worried but that doesn’t mean students can just remain tuck in their homes. It will affect them in other ways, which is why it is important for us to ensure that these hostels reopen for the ones coming from very vulnerable family backgrounds,” the student said.
We’ve reached out to the University for a comment and will update this copy after we receive a response.