The education of over 7 lakh children in the capital who study in schools run by the municipal corporations has taken a hit since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
In the 2020-21 academic session, when classes had moved online, the digital divide in these schools proved to be a stumbling block – half of the students did not have access to a smartphone or a proper internet connection.
Now with schools shut amid the second wave, and online classes suspended as teachers are on Covid duty, students cannot study on their own either as they don’t have textbooks. Last year too, distribution of books was delayed by over six months in several MCD schools.
There are over 1,600 schools run by corporations across Delhi, from nursery to Class V. The EDMC has 365 schools with around 1.75 lakh children, the South body has 580 schools with around 2.5 lakh children, while the North MCD has over 700 schools with 3.5 lakh students.
Director of the Education Department, South MCD, Mukesh Suryan, said the new academic session in MCD schools began in April and classes were on for some time.
With the advancement of summer vacation amid a spike in cases in the capital, however, schools had closed on April 20 and are set to reopen on June 9 — a month before the usual the usual calendar of summer vacations.
According to official of the North MCD, distribution of books and copies was delayed last year as well but parents were later called to schools to collect textbooks and copies. “This year, there has been no supply,” he said.
North MCD Mayor Jai Prakash said the administration had been caught up in containing the Covid crisis but added that this issue would be taken up in a meeting on Monday.
East MCD Mayor Nirmal Jain said Rs 3.5 crore has been approved for distribution of books and would be given to students soon: “We are chalking out a plan for the same.”
An official from the South MCD said last year, officials were struggling to bridge the digital gap as many parents do not own phones with internet connection; some don’t know how to use WhatsApp; others have jobs that don’t let them work from home.
“If we could have given books on time this year, then students could have done self-study. Last year, the South body had managed to distribute books by April and the beginning of May while the North body saw a six-month delay. This session, it appears there would be delays by us too,” he said.
MCD school teachers, too, are back on Covid duty and engaged in enforcement of challans and working at vaccination and health centres. Ram Niwas Solanki, general secretary, Municipal Corporation Teachers’ Association and a teacher in a North MCD school in Krishna Vihar, said some schools have also been turned into vaccination centres.