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Updated: January 24, 2010 15:28 IST

When school's out

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Bandhs in the city might translate to a day off from college, but not all students are enjoying the impromptu break. JAYASHREE ARUNACHALAM digs deeper

Politics and policy dictate the way common people live their lives. Groups of people stand in long-suffering silence at deserted bus stops, harassed homemakers desperately search for an ATM or a grocery shop that doesn't have its shutters down, the feeble and frail are forced to pay hefty sums to their resident autowallah to get to a hospital that may or may not treat them immediately. Templated texts now reside in people's mobile phones, ready to be sent at the slightest hint of trouble: bandh tomorrow.

While college students have become the emblem of the ongoing trouble in the state, they're also the ones grappling with the biggest problems. With classes being cancelled left and right, there's the bittersweet sensation of unexpected holidays and uneasy fear of consequences.

“It's actually nice to get a break from classes: it gives me a chance to catch up on my reading and spend time with friends in a non-academic environment,” explains 19-year-old engineering student Ananta Kurien. “But when classes resume, we suffer. In the rush to complete portions, teachers leave out huge chunks of matter for self-study. We also have too much lab work to catch up on.”

As the novelty of sporadic holidays wears off, disgruntlement sets in. “We were slated to have lots of college events in the new year, like culturals and plays,” says Deepal Shah, a second-year arts student. “Everything's been put on hold now because the faculty is caught up in the flurry of meeting exam deadlines.”

Faculty members clearly aren't having the best days as well. A faculty coordinator with a local engineering college explains how it works on their end.

“When we draw up the syllabus schedule at the beginning of the year, we do allow a few days' leeway in case of emergencies that might affect classes,” she says. “However, we're finding this situation overwhelming. Students don't turn up and we can't always blame them. It's now a race against time, and we're forced to do a half-baked job of teaching simply because we don't have the time.”

The irony is that the days off from college don't translate to the usual pastimes of catching a movie or two, or killing time at the local mall. Malls remain closed, pubs resolutely down shutters, and the idea of “hanging out” somewhere is hindered by the lack of public transport. “Tell me, what are the chances of even finding someplace open?” says Ananta. “After a point, it's just groups of friends congregating at home. We have nothing to do, so finally we half-heartedly flip through our textbooks and dread going back to college at all!” The long-term consequences also hang over their head. Many institutions are forced to push back examination dates in anticipation of further trouble.

With deferred exams come deferred results, and post-graduate plans need to be put on hold.

“Many students are finding it tough to organise their transcripts to meet application deadlines,” says overseas education consultant Varun Jhingiani. “Some applicants are deferring from the spring semester to the fall, buying a little extra time to organise their documents with respective colleges. The uncertainty just adds to their problems.”

Clearly, it's a no-win situation.



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