IUSF urges expeditious university reopening

  • Calls for addl. facilities for lecture halls, hostels, canteens, quarantine

By Buddhika Samaraweera

The Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) has emphasised the need to expedite the reopening of universities, which are currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing a media briefing yesterday (22), IUSF Convener Wasantha Mudalige said that the Government should formulate a programme to expand the existing facilities in universities, given the Covid-19 pandemic situation, thereby paving the way for the reopening of universities.

“When we queried about the reopening of universities, University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Prof. Sampath Amaratunge said that the Vice Chancellors (VCs) of the universities have been given the power to do so. However, the universities cannot be reopened just because the VCs were given the powers. The Government should provide or expand the necessary facilities,” he added.

Speaking further, Mudalige said that the Government should take immediate action to improve facilities, particularly the lecture halls, hostels, canteens, and quarantine facilities.

When inquired about the plans to reopen universities, Prof. Amaratunge told The Morning that even at present, 25% of the total number of students at certain universities are attending lectures, and claimed that certain universities may not have called the students to the universities since they are on vacation after examinations.

When questioned as to whether there is any planned time for the universities to be fully opened, he said: “Universities can be fully opened when there is no Covid-19. Because in one room, five or six people are there, while in hostels, there are about 2,000 to 3,000 students; therefore, in such a situation, we cannot call all students to universities.”

In response to the IUSF’s request to expand facilities, Prof. Amaratunge said that the relevant universities should look into such matters.

“It is the responsibility of the relevant university to look into any facilities that need to be developed. There is a way for them to get the necessary provisions for such,” he explained.

The UGC in October 2021, stated that it is planning to reopen universities that are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation at any given date, in a few stages. Speaking to the media at the time, Prof. Amaratunge said that under the first stage, universities are planned to be reopened for students who are scheduled to sit for the written examinations and practical examinations. He also said that students who received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccines would be able return to university about two weeks after taking the second dose.

“Only students who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be called to university and they will be required to produce their vaccination cards,” he added. Speaking further, Prof. Amaratunge said that the relevant VCs would decide as to which students from the aforesaid groups should be called back to the universities in the first stage.