EVEN as the Gujarat government has announced reopening of schools after Diwali, the Surat Municipal School Board (SMSB), in a survey, has found over 12,000 students studying in Hindi, Marathi and Odiya mediums in its school are “not traceable” and may not have returned from their home states after the lockdown.
The Surat Municipal School Board imparts education in seven mediums — Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Odiya, Telugu and English — to 1.5 lakh students in 320 schools, from classes 1 to 8. The strength of teaching staff in the schools is 3,900.
Surat city is home to nearly 10 lakh migrants from other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, who work in textile, diamond and other industries here. Also, there are over 13 lakh people from different districts of Saurashtra who work mostly in the diamond factories and textile sector in Surat. Most of their children study in municipal schools.
SMSB Education Officer Vimal Desai said, “In a survey, we found that over 12,000 students of Hindi, Marathi and Odiya mediums from classes 1 to 8, were not present for the online classes. Their parents’ mobile phones were switched off, so they fall in ‘no contact category’.”
As per the survey, Desai said, 30,000 students staying in Surat regularly attended online classes, while 35,000 students attended online classes from their native places.
Similarly, around 40,000 students were those who either had no Android mobile phones or had only one Android mobile phone in the house, which would be with the father who went out to work. But they attended the government education programmes aired through television channels.
The Board sent teams to the homes of students whose mobile phones were switched off and found them locked. The landlords informed that they had gone back to their native places.
“In homes with just one phone, the education material is sent to the parent as PDF. There are over 35,000 students who do not have television sets or mobile phones… our teachers go to their homes thrice in a week, take class for a group of students and give them home work,” Desai said.
Sameera Khan,14, a class 8 student at Bhestan Municipal School, lives with her grandmother Kubra Pathan after her grandfather died. The grandmother works as a domestic help and supports her education, but uses an ordinary phone. Recently, her grandmother took a loan from her employer and got Sameera an Android phone. The family migrated from Jalgaon in Maharashtra but she studies in Gujarati medium.
Her younger brothers Amir and Mustafa are in Class 4 and 5 respectively, and stay in the Umarwada tenement with their parents. Their father Abbas drives an autorickshaw for a living and mother Mariyam works as a domestic help.
Sameera, who aspires to be a teacher, told The Indian Express, “My grandmother is illiterate and uses an ordinary phone. When online teaching started, I did not have a phone or TV… I started going to the house of my friend Bushra Shaikh, who has a mobile phone. We do lessons together and also solve the doubts with our teachers. Now I am attending classes with the new phone.”
Among her parents, her father has a smartphone phone and her brothers also face the same issue. “They take the help of their friends. Every Sunday, I go home, check their lessons and try to complete them. Their teacher comes home thrice a week and teaches for two hours,” she added.
Dipak Parshuram Thakur, 14, a Class 8 Hindi medium student from Palanpur area in Surat, is attending classes from his native place, Sahav village in Jalon district of Uttar Pradesh.
The family left for UP in May, after the textile factory where his father worked, closed. In June, his teacher called his father to say online classes would start and got his phone registered. “My father has an Android mobile phone. Initially I faced some difficulties as the screen was not clear… I would call Satish sir (class teacher) and get my doubts cleared. I would record the lectures and would listen to them again, which helped me,” said Dipak. The Thakurs plan to return to Surat after Diwali.
Four Urban Resource Co-ordinators (URC) take care of education related activities in schools, each holding charge of 80 schools. Ramesh Patel, who is a URC, said, “We tried our best but 12,000 students could not be contacted. The migrants are returning to the city and we hope that by February, they will all return, once everything is normal. Once they are back, our teachers will take extra classes to prepare them and conduct examinations.”
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