Classes on the road: A new way to protest for the students of 'New India'?

The students of Delhi University, led by the SFI, organised classes on the road — Sadak pe Kaksha — to amplify their urge to get back to physical classrooms
Is the way our students protest changing? (Pic: EdexLive)
Is the way our students protest changing? (Pic: EdexLive)

Rabindranath Tagore may have started open-air classes for the first time in a modern institution, but Indian students have elevated it by making it part of their protest.

What do you do when your college does not reopen for physical classes? You start the classes out on the streets! That's what students across India have done during their protests, demanding the reopening of campuses. Be it Delhi University or Jadavpur University or even Calcutta University — students at various points in their protest have organised lectures out on the streets.

The students of Delhi University, led by the SFI, organised classes on the road — Sadak pe Kaksha — to amplify their urge to get back to physical classrooms. The 'offline class' was organised outside the VC's office. But it was shortlived as the university announced that the campuses will be reopened from February 17, soon after the first lecture of Sadak pe Kaksha wrapped up.

Dr Abha Dev Habib, who teaches Physics at Miranda House and is an active member of the Democratic Teachers' Front (DTF), delivered the first lecture. But she wasn't teaching Physics. "We talked about new changes in education policies and their intent and role of statutory bodies," said Dr Habib. It is often difficult to even deliver a public lecture to such a varied crowd that is also protesting against the administration. A commentary on the protest would seem a better engagement, said students.

The classes outside Jadavpur University started the same way — more current affairs than subjects were discussed. The classes also came with a tagline, 'Classrooms to break free from your mind's curfew'. These classes went on for a while unlike the DU ones — the varsity hadn't opened its doors as the government had not deemed it safe at that point. 

But as days went by and more teachers joined in, some of them started delivering proper public lectures. Topics ranged from the evolution of media to the basics of cells and rudimentary science lessons. "It was a very different experience altogether. No classroom, no board, no diagrams and a varied bunch of students. But I enjoyed the experience thoroughly," said Dr Biswadip Das, Professor, Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, JU. Dr Das delivered a lecture on basic biology outside JU.

Be it the Sadak pe Kaksha or the Classrooms to Break Free, is the way our students protest changing? "It's more constructive than just sitting there and shouting slogans. It is also more engaging. And on top of it all, it conveys a message that the students are serious about studying and want to get back to it — they aren't merely 'wasting time'," said a student activist who wanted to remain anonymous. More often than not, the classes outside JU have seen pedestrians take note of the unique open-air classrooms.

Parents, at least some of them, were worried that the discussions at these sessions were not always productive for the students. "The students are overwhelmed with online classes and exams in virtual mode and a future that is uncertain. A class to help clear their doubts makes sense but how will talking about politics and current affairs help? They are already listening to that all the time on the news and social media," a concerned parent had told EdexLive when we spoke to them back in August 2021, in the context of the classes held outside Jadavpur University.

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