I am desperate to go home, says student with vulnerable family

By Hannah Richardson
Education and social affairs reporter


Jiya Saggu, 20, is torn between desperately wanting to go home and wanting to keep her medically vulnerable family safe.

Her 15-year-old sister had a kidney transplant some years ago and still has a weakened immune system, as does her mother who has rheumatoid arthritis.

Also her uncle, one of the earliest of England's Covid cases, spent weeks on a ventilator before finally recovering.

She says: "That really brought home the fact that if any of my family get this virus, it would be devastating."

Reading the plans in the news to test students, before helping them get home, brought the third year University of Durham student "a great sense of relief because it is a possible way out".

She says: "I think having designated days for people to leave may be a little difficult, especially within a week.

"But if it means I can get home safely then that's all that matters."

She adds: "I definitely have good days and bad days. My housemates are quite good friends to me. They know how stressed I am.

"I've had days where I've rang my parents and said: 'I just want to come home.'

"They have been coming up with solutions like to stay in a hotel and isolate for two weeks, but they are also quite keen that I have some semblance of a university experience."

Tearful phone call

She has also been concerned about her sister, who is sitting GCSEs this year and is worried because she has missed so much teaching time.

"She telephoned me on Saturday and started crying. They're being told that the mocks they're having in January may be her final exams.

"It's really hard not to be at home to help her through that."

Jiya has been taking stringent precautions to protect herself from catching Covid-19. She wears a mask every time she leaves the house.

So far Jiya has had one face-to-face learning session this term, with the rest of her combined studies course being taught online. She says if she had realised how little contact she was going to have, she may well have stayed at home.

What about next term?

"If everything is going to be online again, I don't see the point in coming back. But if there are in person sessions or I can do rowing, it's different.

"It's how to do it safely. I don't think we came up here safely this term. You can see from the spikes that we've had in the university - it wasn't safe."