Classes and exams apart, the sudden closure of colleges across the State has put college authorities in a pickle for another reason — laptops.

A few days before the anti-Sri Lanka protests began, hundreds of laptops, which were to be distributed to students, had arrived in 15 government and government-aided colleges in the city. However, because of the stir, the distribution process was stalled. Since then, college authorities have been desperately waiting for classes to resume so that the laptops can be given away.

“We were waiting for senior government officials to give us a date to distribute the laptops. Then, the protests broke out abruptly and colleges had to be shut down before we could organise a distribution ceremony,” said the principal of a college in north Chennai.

Sources said the laptops have been distributed in only five colleges. “We were going to ask students to come last Friday and take the laptops and leave. But the protests intensified,” the principal said.

Officials in most colleges are worried about the safety of the laptops.

“We are conducting a count of the number of laptops every other day, to ensure none have been stolen,” said the principal of a polytechnic college in Vepery.

Most of these colleges have employed fulltime security guards to ensure the laptops are safe. “We also divided our teachers into groups and every group was entrusted with the responsibility of a particular batch of laptops. A group of teachers are stationed in the college every day to guard the laptops,” said the principal of a college in Saidapet.

“The problem is, we don’t even have enough storage room to keep them. We were forced to clear out some classrooms and store the devices there,” said the principal of a college in Mint.

Among the colleges that received the laptops are ones where final-year students protested in the last week of February, demanding they be given the devices first, before they were given to second and third-year students.

Government officials had then promised the protesting students that they also would be given laptops soon.

“We got the devices on March 12, but now the laptops have been lying unused for the last 15 days,” said a professor of an arts college.