Campus Lockdown: How IIT KGP is facilitating students on-campus and beyond
IIT Kharagpur has recently sent about 35 students to their hometown in Kolkata. This is one among the several student outreach initiatives taken by the Institute administration in the past two months while the campus adopted social distancing followed by the nation wide lockdown.
Classes at the Institute have gone digital since March 17 in the process of following social distancing. Following the lockdown announcement on March 24, all classes were moved to web-conferencing mode, video lectures of NPTEL, or through email. The academic calendar was also revised with the final semester examination scheduled in July and Autumn semester in August end. Further the Moodle platform was made accessible from outside the Institute LAN for submission of assignments by students from outside the Institute LAN. A crucial part of academic programmes are internships which have been rearranged either in online form with corporate houses or at the Institute. Pre-final year students were offered to opt for internships at any department in the Institute on topics of their choice and as per project availability as part of the ongoing COVID19 e-Learning initiatives. But the initiatives undertaken by the Institute were not only limited to academics.
A quick look at the social media handles of Director of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. V K Tewari would give a glimpse of student outreach activities undertaken by the Institute extensively in the past few weeks. The Director has visited all the halls of residence and discussed with the students regarding their lifestyle and extracurricular activities while remaining indoors and maintaining social distancing.
“We take pride at IIT KGP for being a home away from home. I have visited my family members at the halls of residence for the past few weeks. We talked about how they are spending their time during lockdown, how to reduce the risk of infection, minimise social gathering and to ensure social distancing and hygiene norms just as we are doing during these visits. And together in our applause we said heartfilled thanks to the security staff, healthcare professionals, mess and sanitation workers and other essential service providers,” said Prof. Tewari.
He has also been reaching out to the students and campus community through his social media handle and encouraging them to learn new skills, acquire new knowledge and pursue activities for which otherwise people fall short of time.
Taking the cue from the Director, many students have been keeping themselves busy in activities. Srijita Pal, PhD scholar at the Dept. of Mathematics has joined her friends to learn ballet to continue with a healthy lifestyle. She talked about several students in her hall of residence who are trying their cooking skills and it is not because of any disruption in mess services.
“Mess food continues to be usual but engaging in activities with a friend is helping us sail through the lockdown period,” she said.
In another initiative, the Institute has been arranging for students to return to their hometowns. At present there are more than 5000 students residing on the campus. Out of them close to 700 students have consented to go home. In the first installment, the Institute has arranged for two buses to drop 35 students to their hometown Kolkata. Further plans are being made to send the other students to their home locations across the country. Students opting to go home have been advised to stay in self-isolation for two weeks.
Talking about the initiative, Kinjal Bhattacharyya, research scholar at the Dept. of Civil Engineering said, “My decision to move to Kolkata was to support my parents in daily activities during this time of crisis. The Institute was kind to do all the arrangements from medical checkups, getting permission and arranging hassle-free travel with safe and sanitized institute buses. I will always be indebted to the institute for taking the initiative.”
His parents Supratip Bhattacharyya and Anuradha Bhattacharyya expressed their gratitude to the IIT KGP security and administration.
“Our son felt completely safe and kept us very well-assured during his stay in the campus. Also we are really happy that he is back now to support us, kudos to the IIT KGP team for taking all the efforts to arrange safe and secure travel of my ward,” they said.
However, the majority of the students have decided to stay back at the campus. While Mouli Majumdar from the Dept. of Architecture and Regional Planning stayed back to complete her PhD project work, Aniruddha Saha from the Dept of Mechanical Engineering, who hails from Barrackpore felt that the campus would be a safer place to stay and would continue with his B.Tech. internship during the summer recess. The students did not have much to complain about except that they were missing their batchmates.
Ankita Gupta who recently reached her home at Basirhat said, “We were looked after quite well with the messes being open and interactions in small groups while maintaining social distancing norms. But being a 1st year M.Sc. student with my friends already away from the campus, I felt being at home would be happier though campus was safer.”
The Institute has also distributed facial masks to students and made available necessary facilities well within residential boundaries. However, they are also allowed to move outside the hostel for 30-40 minutes, particularly for procuring essential items from the on-campus market. The halls are being sanitized as well at regular intervals with the service staff properly geared with PPEs.
The Institute has been maintaining regular contact with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India through various platforms and apprising them about student outreach initiatives. The Ministry has set up a web-portal YUKTI (Young India Combating COVID with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation) wherein centrally funded higher educational institutions are to submit reports regarding the efforts and initiatives which have been taken in the wake of COVID-19.
Director, Prof. Tewari thanked Hon’ble Union HRD Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” for his initiative to connect with individual institutions to discuss the wellbeing of the students and campus community and motivate the leadership to continue with their responsibilities and work during these challenging times.