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The Gap Year of Waiting

The pandemic has created a major crisis in various sectors and fields across the world. The global economy is at an all-time low, businesses are closing, and people are being laid off. On the one side, the working community have been severely hit, with high unemployment and pay cuts, and on the other side, the student community has been pushed to the corner.

Amidst the multiplicity of bodies, political tensions, and administrative laxity, the students bore a major brunt in this crisis. With schools and colleges across the world being shut, semesters half-way through and exams pending, nobody knew what to do!

The Confusions

The lock down was declared on March 24, post which all the universities were mandatorily shut. Generally, the last week of March and beginning of April mark the completion of 3/4 of the semester in most colleges and universities.  For some universities, it is the last month of the semester, with just the end semester exams remaining. The lockdown led to a prevailing sense of unsurety, more so, for all the students of the graduating batch of 2020.

For many students, studying far away from their homes, they knew they could make no plans; they were just waiting for the university administrations to take a decision for them. The decisions were taken, not one, but many.

By the time one notice was deciphered, another body stepped in to either interject or cancel the previous order. With multiple orders by various governing bodies, keeping a track of the happenings is difficult.

While the IIT’s, NIT’s and many private institutions could independently take decisions, which favoured the students, the students from government universities suffered. Nevertheless, let us take a look at the few orders.

On April 27, the University Grants Commission or UGC, the higher education regulator, released an order. The guidelines had details of the new academic calendar for the universities and colleges as well as the dates for the annual examination for the graduating year students; the intermediate semester students were to be graded based on internal assessment of the present and previous semesters while the exams for the terminal semester students would be held in the month of July.

Contradicting the order of the UGC, The Bar Council of India, on May 27, passed a resolution to put a hold to the online examination option as per the UGC order, dated 27/04/20. The law schools were directed to find alternatives for those students who could not attempt the examination online.

Keeping in mind the Pandemic situation in Maharashtra, all non-professional traditional courses, final examinations were made optional. This announcement was a huge sigh of relief for over 7.3 lakh students enrolled in non-professional courses, across the state. Further, the remaining 2.8 lakh students pursuing professional courses, were asked to seek guidelines from their governing councils, like the (AICTE), Bar Council of India (BCI), Council of Architecture, etc.

On June 24, a UGC committee made a recommendation to the government to cancel all the examinations for the final year students in all the universities and colleges across India.

On July 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs made all examinations for final year students compulsory across India. These examinations are to be conducted by September-end on a mode suitable for the students at the particular college or university.

Meanwhile, even Kerala Technical University and Delhi University had their own orders and exams.

Well, this list does not even cover half of the orders and government university decisions for Final year students, taken in the last few months.

And, as I write this, I know a few of my friends are preparing to give their final semester exams, offline, amidst this raging pandemic.

Multiplicity Of Bodies

If one were to look at this legally, in essence, education as a subject is a matter on the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India. This means the powers to take decisions are given to both the central and state governments. But, keeping in mind the Quasi-Federal structure of India, the decision of the centre always supersedes that of the state.

Additionally, there are other bodies like the University Grants Commission, Bar Council of India, All India Council for Technical Education, Medical Council of India, etc. which act as regulatory bodies for all the Institutions across the Country. UGC is the regulatory body for all universities across the country, irrespective of the courses offered. Whereas the BCI and AICTE are special bodies which facilitate professional courses education, like law and engineering.

Now, each body has its own role and power. Yet, they, along with the state and central governments, have been passing orders, issuing guidelines, and making announcements; leaving students utterly confused and stressed, to say the least!

The Gap Year None Of Us Asked For

With the excessive delay in the decision making, the confusing orders, the conflict between centre and state, the cluelessness of regulatory bodies and the absolute laxity of university administrations, final year students are forced to come to a complete halt.
As a student from the graduating batch of 2020, I know this entire situation is difficult, confusing, and irritating to say the least. It is one which makes me cripple with anxiety about a future, in a world raging with hate, questions and hopelessness. But, amidst that anxiety and this long waiting period, I learnt something.

In God’s timing, no time is wasted time!

Generally, no one likes to wait, because we are so used to everything coming to us instantly, whether it is food or information. If something is not happening, we attempt to make it happen! In our present culture we measure everything on the basis of response time – the success or failure of any action or mission. But, now because of Covid and a whole set of unprepared adults (read: Politicians) it seems like all we can do is wait.
In God’s timing, when it looks like everything has come to a standstill, it is the best moment of our lives when we can rediscover ourselves. This is a time to reorient our lives to God and make Him the centre of our lives. Because, in the “Instant Culture” we forgot that Waiting is part of what it means to be human, more importantly, what it means to be a Christian.
As Human beings, we all like to think we are in control and we often forget that only God can see into our future. God doesn’t give us quick answers or immediate results. In fact, God has purposed us to constantly wait! So that we would be entirely dependent on Him.!
Take the life of Joseph, for example. Joseph was forced to wait on the Lord, but while he waited, he got busy doing what he could. His good attitude and work ethic resulted in promotion along the way! (Gen 39:13-20)
Joseph was in prison for a crime he did not commit. Apart from the fact that prison had its limitations and restrictions, Joseph had no idea when he would be out. In our understanding prison-time is definitely a wasted time and not a productive time. Yet in this time, God used him, he did not let any of the prison time go waste.

Joseph in his waiting time:

  1. Joseph was put in charge of those held in Prison and the warden was confident of him (Gen 39: 21- 23)
  2. He interpreted the dream of the Chief Cupbearer and the Chief Baker and later on the Chief Cupbearer became his key out of the prison (Gen 40,41)

This story reminds us that God is not inactive when we are waiting. When you are waiting on God, most often He is working behind the scenes to put all the “missing pieces” in our lives in place before He fulfils our desires or requests.
What it means to wait on the Lord (Like Joseph did)

  1. Look to the Lord: In our waiting time and frustration; we tend to wait on someone or something. Our expectation is shifted to another person, and that leads to disappointments. Instead, look to the Lord, just like Joseph did.
  2. Be willing to Learn and Listen: Waiting is a part of our world, now. In the new normal, until things get smoother, we may have to wait, for longer periods. One thing is certain, God’s waiting room is a classroom! In the process of waiting we are in fact learning to develop a character trait. We learn obedience.
  3. Waiting on the Lord is a matter of obedience: God’s promises may take a long time to wait. We may have to take decisions, contrary to our own plans. These decisions may not involve the ‘Comfortable’ Yes. It will be a Terrifying Yes, but a Yes which will place us, straight into the Arms of JESUS.

Remember, Joseph had to wait for 13 years before the promise was fulfilled. He had a dream of promotion. God took away Joseph’s crutches and replaced them with the characteristic he would later need to run the greatest empire in the world of that day, Egypt, and this was through what he learned during those years in prison.

As Students, as Fresh Graduates, let us remember, that; Time is never wasted with God. HE shapes and moulds HIS children and in our lowest and vulnerable moments, He will walk with us, DESPITE, the fear, and anxiety we carry with us.

Monica, is a lawyer by profession, a baker by passion and an occasional writer. She is a progressive thinker, with strong views and opinions on politics and social systems in India and across the world. With a heart for Justice, she is currently, working for an Anti-Human Trafficking NGO, based in Mumbai. “

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