Around 1,500 PhD and graduate students have returned to the Powai campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) -Bombay, as the institute works to gradually restore regular classes.
Following an outbreak of Covid-19 cases at IIT Madras earlier last month, its counterpart in Mumbai is now wary of reopening the campus in full force. Although the institute is working on a plan to bring students back in stages, physical classes are unlikely this semester, institute officials said.
The institute closed completely on March 28, 2020 after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. A summer vacation was announced on April 1, and the institute subsequently announced that the entire fall and winter semester would be held online for the sake of student safety.
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“We have slowly started to reopen the campus and about 1,500 students are already here,” said Subhasis Chaudhuri, director of IIT Bombay.
Of those who have returned to campus, the majority are doctoral fellows and master’s final-year students, whose research projects depend on access to the laboratory. “We have also brought in about 150 undergraduate students, who did not have the means to attend classes online,” said Prita Pant, chair of the restart committee and associate dean of academics. Two hundred more students with limited resources will return to campus during the current winter semester.
Meanwhile, the institute has stepped up measures to ensure that a situation similar to that of IIT Madras does not arise. “Students have been asked to come to the labs only when it is urgent. All teachers and mentors keep a roster to make sure students take turns in the labs. Guidelines have been issued for both students and teachers on social distancing measures, ”said Pant.
In shelters, students have been instructed to use foot-operated faucets to wash their hands before entering the canteen, a common area. “The canteen of the shelters works in shifts to allow a limited number of students at a time and tables with flexible glass screens have been installed. We are being very strict in the implementation of the rules of social distancing, ”he said, adding that the institute expected to have all its students back on campus starting next semester.