How students responded to the People’s Quarantine.
Last week, youth activists called for a boycott of classes at universities, as university administrations did not massively switch to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 20, leaders of the Belarusian opposition and civil society called for the People’s Quarantine.
Belsat found out whether the action was successful and how many students continue to attend classes.
Earlier, 16 thousand people signed a petition addressed to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the country's leadership, with a demand to transfer educational institutions to distance learning in connection with the spread of the coronavirus. Some faculties (for example, at the Belarusian State Medical University, the Hrodna State University, and others) canceled lectures, but there is no centralized quarantine. So, in the BSU, where cases of infection were detected, classes continue. The Minsk State Linguistic University, where many foreigners study, also did not switch to distance learning.
It all started with the action, which was conducted by the MSLU students on March 19: girls handed out masks at the entrance to the university with the inscription “Haha, I will die here.” On Monday March 23, activists called for a “general strike”.
“We want to show the administration that everything is possible”
A fourth-year student at the Minsk State Linguistic University Lizaveta Prakopchyk, one of the participants in the action, said that the boycott was only partially supported. The girl herself has adhered to the regime of self-isolation since last Friday.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see how many people have come today, because I have been staying at home since March 20, but I know for sure that three groups from the translation department haven’t come. According to my feelings, approximately 20% do not attend classes at our university, while there are those who also boycott classes in other groups. However, the polls in Telegram channels show that there aren’t so many of them,” says Lizaveta.
According to her, the reason for the general inertia of students is that most are simply not ready for action. Or, in this case, inaction.
“They said that nothing will work, no matter what we do. Like, why are you doing this if it still doesn’t work out? If those on top don’t want it, nothing will happen”.
According to Lizaveta, the administration of the Minsk State Linguistic University made official statements every day from Wednesday to Saturday last week.
“There were things that were very strange to hear. That everyone who goes to the first-aid post with an acute respiratory infection is immediately given a test, and everyone is checked. But this is not so. People who collected signatures came to the first-aid post with a cold - nobody did any tests for them. They simply wrote out sick leave at best. The position of the administration is that they allegedly cannot organize distance learning due to the specifics of the university,” the student explains.
However, according to her information, Streamline’s foreign language courses conduct classes remotely, on the Zoom online platform. Now activists plan to write detailed instructions for using such platforms and send it to the administration, “to show that everything is possible”.
From an anonymous survey in the Telegram channel “Dismiss” it follows that 26% of students boycott classes on Monday. Another 39% have come, but supported the idea of quarantine. Only 6% do not see quarantine as necessary, and adhere to the usual regime.
Meanwhile, the administration sent out messages to the groups prefects in the 4th year of BNTU calling “not to participate in provocative activities to boycott classes”.
“So far, it’s hard for us to summarize the boycott. According to the polls, about 30% today have not come. In my opinion, this is quite a lot. There are universities where entire courses have not come. The MSLU has less turnout than usual. In the BSU in some groups only two people have come. That is, the action is more or less successful.