The colleges and universities of the federal state Bremen are, like most educational institutions of the state, limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this most of the teachings (e.g. Hochschule Bremerhaven, faculty 1) are held digitally online, except for lab meetings, exercises and special events. This is the case for not only this semester but has been for the majority of 2020 as well. Similar situations are shown at other colleges and universities of the state.
In the last semesters, that were forced into digital teachings, the state has considered the situation of the students and did not count failed tries for exams which is usually limited to three. Also, the semesters did not count into the total study length regarding the entitlement to receive BAföG-payments (financial assistance for students in Germany). This was done to prevent putting a strain on students due to financial troubles and thus forcing them to quit studying at the respective college or university. Because to not all students are entitled to receive BAföG, many still faced difficulties regarding their financial situation.
Now in this semester, which is still mostly done in a digital form, these regulations are upheld no longer. The semester will be considered regarding the entitlement to receive BAföG and failed attempts will be counted.
Just like every other person on this planet, students are forced into exceptional circumstances due to the pandemic. When the regulations are upheld for this and the coming “corona semesters” the state would do justice to the students’ situation. Because of these exceptional circumstances the regulations were put in place in the first time. Now the regulations are gone but the exceptional circumstances remain.
Therefore, the demand is:
Uphold the regulations to not count failed exam attempts and to not count this and the coming “corona semesters” regarding the entitlement to receive BAföG!
Studies are one of many important qualification and education types, which should be accessible for everyone. This accessibility is essential and thus funded and regulated by the state. It is especially important for students for who their studies represent their first educational degree. The accessibility is the same. No one is excluded due to financial or compassionate grounds.
Because of the still active COVID-19 pandemic the teachings still mostly take place in a digital form at the colleges and universities of the state, which is justified due to the current pandemic situation. However, these circumstances are an immense burden for the students as well as the teaching staff. The digital tools provided by the colleges and universities might work to some degree (there might be exceptions) seeing that we are currently in the fourth semester that has been compromised by the pandemic. Furthermore, you could think the students are now familiar with the situation and accustomed to the digital teachings and thus ceasing the supporting regulations is justified.
With this reasoning the individual circumstance of each student is disregarded. The influences on each individual student may include but are not limited to:
- Bad internet connection: low bandwidth and connection break-offs are not only a problem for the teaching staff but for the students as well. The student can’t follow the contents of the lecture. In case of a connection break-off during an exam the student’s ability to properly display their knowledge is hindered immensely. So far that a failed attempt could be the result. Connection break-offs are not isolated cases in Germany due to its failed promises of expanding the bandwidth on a national scale. Telecommunications from the 50s are still in use without any kind of modernization. It does not come with surprise that Germany only manages to reach the 25th place in the State of the Internet Ranking (Quelle). An (unfortunately) still up-to-date video of the ZDF Neo Magazin Royale depicts these deficits regarding digitalization among other things. (Link)
- Psychological health problems: Students are under a lot of stress. This is well known certainty. A report by Deutschlandfunk form 2019 (Link) shows that this issue has been know before limitations of the pandemic set in. Social isolation, lacking separation of work space and living space and missing earnings due to weggefallene side jobs are only adding to this issue. Another foothold for the students to adapt to the pressure of their studies that ceased to exist is the contact to other students. Visiting a Christmas market and talking about your hobbies instead of your studies? Not happening. After a day of lectures students are glad to be able to shut their computer off and don’t spend time online with other students. That the online studies cause damage to the mental health is shown by a poll done by the TK (Link). Note: if you don’t feel well and don’t know what to do anymore, please look for help. The crisis line (+44116123) is available 24h a day, seven days a week and even available online: LINK (for other languages than English: LINK)
- Layout conditions: A small room to set up an office space is not only convenient for tax returns but also helps to separation between work life and private life. If you live alone or with other people this separation might not be possible due to financial circumstances. This leads as stated above to even more stress on one’s mental health. Separation between work and private life is often not possible because of online studies.
- Financial circumstances: Going to college or university is a conscious decision of each individual to get a non-paid education but for most students their studies are their way to achieve their first educational degree. Most students are full time students at the colleges and universities of the state and because their studies are non-paid these students have to fund their living expenses. If there are no savings, the family can’t support a student nor are they receiving a scholarship the only option to fund themselves is to either receive social benefits (BAföG) or take on a side job. Taking on a side job can often times lead to exceeding the regular period of study because of the required time that can not be invested into studying. Many side jobs of the students, especially those in the restaurant business or in the bypass of production in industries in the summer, ceased to exist due to the pandemic. This is shown in a report by the BR(Link). The unfortunate financial situation is often times attended by the absence of technical equipment that is needed to participate in online lectures.
The reasons above are far from complete yet at least one of them if not more does apply to almost every student. The colleges and universities might have adjusted to the digital teachings though the disadvantages of exactly these digital teaching do still apply for the students.
Note: the source links will guide you to german websites, except for the crisis line's number and the links to the digital crisis line.
Many thanks for translating this petition into English to Lena Schotte.