Today, March 27, marks the second day of hunger strike at the National Institute of Social Work and Social Sciences (NISWASS), Odisha.
Students are protesting against examination-related irregularities, the absence of qualified faculties and the targeting of students for agitating against the prevailing academic crisis.
The college administration, students say, doesn’t conduct exams on time and repeatedly delays the declaration of results in both undergraduate as well as post-graduate programmes.
“Many students who gave their exams in 2017, 2018 and even 2019 are still waiting for their results. Even those who graduated seven years ago are awaiting their certificates and mark sheets,” said an undergraduate student at the university on condition of anonymity.
Besides, there is no qualified faculty in college and students say that some professors copy notes from the study material provided by the distance education programme.
A second-year student enrolled in a master’s in social work said that there are only a few permanent faculty members at NISWASS and they don’t even take classes on a regular basis.
Students have written to the college administration several times, but the issues stand unresolved even till this date. They say the college keeps putting the blame on the university (NISWASS is affiliated to Utkal University) and vice versa.
“We had filed an RTI back in 2015 – a year after the semester system started – asking for the reasons behind the delay in announcing the final results. The college administration asked us to approach the university and the university, in return, blamed the college saying that they never submit the necessary documents on time which leads to unwanted delays,” said a college alumnus.
According to students, this has been the attitude of the administration since 2014. “They have been playing with us like this for the past five years. I graduated in 2017 but I still haven’t received my mark sheet. This is affecting my career,” said another college alumnus.
By delaying the declaration of results, a three-year undergraduate programme turns into a marathon five year course and a two-year master’s programme is completed in four years. As a result of this, the future of hundreds of students is put in limbo.
Students, as well as the alumni, have collectively stated that the college must announce examination results on time, hire qualified permanent teachers and refrain from threatening students and parents.
The college’s vice-principal stated that the delay is due to examination controllers also being on strike.
Nevertheless, there are allegations of students being pressurised to call off the protest and leave the college. Some students have also been allegedly told that they will be failed in their internal assessments if they continue to protest.
“One member from the administration said that if we [students] are unhappy with them, we can leave because we [first-year undergraduate students] are not yet enrolled,” said a first-year undergraduate student.
According to students, they will continue with the hunger strike until all their demands are met. The alumni have also extended their support to the ongoing hunger strike and will reportedly be joining them to show solidarity.
Students have decided to take the matter to the vice-chancellor, the director of Utkal University and the education minister of Odisha if the college continues to disregard their demands.
The director of the college has, however, noted that they are not aware of any hunger strike being conducted.
“I am not aware of the strike and as far as delays in exam results are concerned, we have repeatedly told our students that it is not under our jurisdiction. We are concerned about the future of our students and have also held several meetings with the administration at Utkal University. It is upto the university to decide, not us,” said Sashmi Nayak, the director.