NEW DELHI, MAY 15: Higher education regulator University Grants Commission has recommended free vaccination for all students and staff of Central varsities at a time normal academic activities have been crippled by the pandemic.
The UGC has written to the Education Ministry suggesting the vaccination drive and improvement of the infrastructure at the health centres on Central university campuses.
The letter, written 2 weeks ago, has been forwarded to the Health Ministry, which is yet to respond, a senior Education Ministry official said.
“The UGC has proposed that all students and university staff be vaccinated for free on priority. The health centres on campuses should be improved so that they can conduct RTPCR tests, administer vaccines and provide basic support to COVID and other patients. Once the university community is vaccinated and the COVID situation improves, the universities can open for normal academic activities,” the official said.
The health centres at most universities do not treat COVID patients. For example, the hospital at Visva-Bharati has 50 beds for treating routine patients. There is no facility to conduct RTPCR tests or provide vaccines to university members. However, the Bengal Government, on the request of Visva-Bharati, had conducted testing camps on the campus a few times.
University sources said campus residents testing positive for COVID were being provided free tele-consultation with doctors and also medicines.
“This is a crisis situation. What is required is to utilise all available facilities. Visva-Bharati now has a new hospital building where COVID care should be provided. In other universities too, separate COVID-care facilities should be started by using the existing healthcare infrastructure,” said a faculty member of Visva-Bharati.
“The problem is that the Central Government is always in election mode. As a result, governance has taken the back seat,” the teacher said, adding that campus residents had to queue up at the Government hospital outside for tests and treatment.
Manish Kumar, a Ph. D student at Visva-Bharati, said that if all students are vaccinated, physical classes can resume.
“Now classes are being conducted online. These classes are more ritualistic in nature. The universities can function better and exams can be held if all students are vaccinated,” Kumar said.
Surendra Singh, a Ph. D student of Delhi University and president of Youth for Social Justice, an organisation fighting against caste-based discrimination at DU, said students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were the worst sufferers of campuses remaining closed due to the pandemic.
“The SC-ST students do not have gadgets (phones and computers) and Internet facilities. They are unable to access the online classes properly. They struggle to appear in online exams. Vaccination is immensely required. Once vaccinated, the students will come back to campuses,” Singh said.
Some Central institutions such as Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University have on-campus medical colleges where COVID care is provided. (Courtesy: TT)