A tale of two convocations amidst the pandemic

A peek into the archival materials brings to fore certain similarities in the circumstances surrounding the 1st and the 100th convocation of the University of Mysore, to be held on Monday.

When the first convocation was held on October 19, 1918, the region was grappling with another pandemic (Influenza) and fighting severe drought. The 100th convocation is being held under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic and floods in parts of the State.

The then maharaja and the chancellor Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar was present in person at the first convocation of the university in which educationist Sir Ashuthosh Mukherjee delivered the convocation address.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make a virtual address to mark the 100th convocation of the varsity and will not be present in person partly due to the situation arising out of the pandemic.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, in his speech during the convocation, referred to influenza which was then declared as an epidemic and had claimed thousands of lives. Expressing his sorrow over the outbreak of the disease, he had remarked that influenza had raised the mortality to alarming levels and appealed to the public to fight the scourge with courage.

According to Mysore Gazetteer edited by Hayavadhana Rao and published many years later, influenza hit Mysore State in 1918 and left 1.95 lakh people dead.

The Prime Minister’s address on Monday is also expected to touch upon the impact of the COVID-19 and the way forward and the challenges facing the economy and the country due to the pandemic.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar referred to the failure of monsoon in many parts of the kingdom and the prolonged drought and remarked that it had raised the cost of the necessities of life along with war conditions. But he held out assurance to the gathering that no effort or expenditure would be spared and his thoughts were constantly with the people. The situation is similar in the present times and apart from the pandemic, the State is grappling with flood.

His speech was not unduly lengthy and there were references to the growth of the university and the increase in the cost of higher education. As a testimony to his understanding of the education system, he noted that the schools are the feeders to the university and efforts were being made to improve their standards.

In the present times, there are concerted efforts to reduce drop out rates in schools and increase the gross enrolment ratio in higher educational institutions.

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