As the Omicron variant of Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, the question on everyone’s mind right now is - will there be another lockdown?
One of the worst sufferers of the COVID-induced loss is the students of public universities. Public Universities are the last institutions to go online during the pandemic period and to some extent, they have yet to cope with the neo-normal life after nearly two years of crisis time.
Session jam and year loss are rifts, and there is the question of financial and mental stability as well.
Some thirty-six students of public universities committed suicide this year, many more are barely clinging to life nowadays. Understandably, the spreading of the omicron variant has stirred the already-battered public university students.
Prantik Deepam got admitted to the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) a few days ago. He is yet to get his department.
The first year at his dream university should have been the best time of his life so far. However, he is worried about it, as another lockdown may jeopardise his plans to start his life afresh.
“A new round of lockdown will be devastating for my university life,” said he, “I have been planning on doing many things once I go to SUST since I have gotten the chance. But now, I am afraid that my version of a university fresher’s life will be left unfulfilled.”
The stakes are even higher for Prantik as he had been studying in another university while taking preparation for SUST admission tests for a second time.
“I have already lost two precious years. Now I am in no position of taking the brunt of another lockdown. Besides, I have poor eyesight, so online classes are just not the way out for me,” he fears.
Online classes have had adverse effects on many students’ ears and eyes. A fresh round of lockdown will surely aggravate the problems.
Things do not fare well for Maliha Noboni, a second-year student of Government College of Applied Human Science (formerly known as the Home Economics College), as she anxiously passes her winter vacation in Patuakhali.
“The chances of enforcing another lockdown are pretty high,” she expressed her concern.
“And we, the students of public universities, will be the worst sufferers of it again. The online education system is neither sufficient nor efficient for us, and our peers at private universities are already far ahead of us. At this rate, we can not afford another lockdown.”
As an independent young lady, Maliha does not take money from home, rather relies on private tuition to bear her expenses.
Lockdown will surely choke her off the earning sources, as most families have cut down private tuitions for their children as a means to cope up with the ongoing inflation.
So, the financial shock that accompanies the impending lockdown worries her to no end.
Nusrat Jahan Mou is a resident student of Dhaka University, who studies in the Institute of Food and Nutrition. She is yet to get used to in-person classes and exams at the university and her life at the DU hall after previous lockdowns, and the thought of a new lockdown deeply troubles her.
“My degree may get delayed again and I do not have a stable internet connection at my home,” she worries.
“Moreover, I am sceptical over the utility of online education.”
While talking about her mental health, she expresses her fear, saying, “My mental health has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic and I fear that I may struggle with depression and anxiety while I stay cooped up at my home.”
Perhaps the most affected group is that of the fourth-year students, as their very livelihood is at stake due to the pandemic.
Kayes Mahmud, a final year resident student of the Department of Finance, Jahangirnagar University, does not mince his words at his frustration at the situation.
“If there is another round of lockdown, I will be finished. I am already far behind my peers and my plan of applying for foreign scholarships has been ruined completely.”
And I have no faith in our online education system,” continues Kayes, “while the world has adopted an advanced system of online study and evaluation, our public universities have utterly come up short in that aspect.”
“Zoom meetings are not the best way to teach or evaluate students and the authorities have had more than enough time to adopt a complete, more efficient module,” remarked frustrated Kayes.
He is also worried about his livelihood as he lost his tuition last year. Now, he has been trying to get his start-up started and a lockdown will be devastating for the nascent initiative.
The probability of a fresh round of a strict lockdown does not fare well for the students of the public universities.
For them, it will be a sudden shock as their lives have finally come back to normal only a few weeks ago. And the thought of it coming to a screeching halt is terrifying for them for academic, financial and mental health reasons.
However, nothing holds a candle to the horrors of the new omicron variant wreaking havoc on the populace. So, if needed, they must accept the neo-normal situation. After all, human life outweighs the world.
Shadique Mahbub Islam is a student of the Department of Economics, the University of Dhaka.