Colleges reopen in Tamil Nadu, confusion about online attendance

“We have asked the students of final year students to come on campus. We are not forcing anyone. The hostels are also open. The government asked us to open hostels also. We are following the government rules.”

When colleges reopened on January 4 after holidays the attendance was lacking and most students opted for online classes, principals said. Lack of clear guidelines has only confused the colleges, they admit.

P. Wilson, Principal of Madras Christian College said of the 2,000 students only 400 had returned to college. “Every day we are conducting RT-PCR tests. If a student is sick, we isolate the entire class and ask them to go for online classes. We are managing with a hybrid system of online and offline classes,” he said.

In Stella Maris College, a circular has confused students and parents. It said students were expected to come to college to attend classes. Attendance would be given to students who attend classes in college only. All assessment tests would be conducted in college only, it read. However, “those who are COVID positive/quarantined in the containment zone must produce request letter along with the evidence/certificate for the same to the class teacher specifying the period to claim attendance for that period” the circular stated.

In a social media platform the students were requested to attend classes offline “If the particular student is facing any difficulty in attending class offline you are requested to send a mail to the principal regarding the same,” the message read. The students were also advised to check their daily attendance in the portal.

Principal Rosy Joseph said no student was forced to come to college.

“We have asked the students of final year students to come on campus. We are not forcing anyone. The hostels are also open. The government asked us to open hostels also. We are following the government rules. Everyday we must provide attendance details by 11 a.m. to the government. The government has not told us whether students who lack attendance would be allowed to take the exams. We have provided study material for students who are unable to attend college. We do not have online classes for final year students. Online classes are for only first and second year students,” she explained.

Sources in the Higher education department clarified that it had specified that students could not be forced to come to college.

Exams and ‘all pass’

Students of colleges affiliated to the University of Madras who were declared ‘all pass’ despite having arrears are now undergoing exams. Some students are already in the midst of their exams while others will be taking them in the coming days.

The University has issued oral instruction to colleges to conduct the exams. As a result all those who were admitted to postgraduate programmes and those who had supposedly graduated are currently taking online exams. The exams are however limited only to those who had paid their arrears fees in March, colleges said.

Two universities, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University and the University of Madras had declared ‘all pass’ for all students who had arrears and had paid the tuition fees. The decision to declare ‘all pass’ was taken due to COVID-19-induced lock-down which resulted in classes being suspended. It was the start of end-semester exams when the lock down was announced.

New College Principal Basheer Ahmed said, “We want to be on the safer side so we asked all our students to take the exams. Everything is online.”

When Anna University’s decision to declare all students with arrears as ‘all pass’ was challenged the University of Madras and MSU were automatically included as respondents as these institutions had also declared all students as having passed. The case will be taken up for hearing on January 11.

Colleges have given different names to the exams though. Some call them improvement exams as this would mean that the student took the exams to improve scores. However, the exams are mandatory for all students, colleges have said.

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