While there is no clarity on when schools will reopen their premises to students, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken up a Rs 38-crore project to replace blackboards with interactive digital boards in Mumbai’s civic schools.
Tenders for the project, which will cover 1,300 classrooms, have been floated already. An initial pre-bid meeting, which was held on July 20, saw over 65 service providers, including some market leaders and contractors, evince interest in the project, officials said.
The BMC runs over 1,133 schools from 456 different locations, with 2.85 lakh students, mostly from economically underprivileged homes.
“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation intends to create digital class rooms in various municipal schools for interactive education. The digital classrooms shall have an interactive panel (smart board) preloaded with software containing the Maharashtra State Board’s syllabus on all subjects from class I and class X, games, audio visual and power point presentation slides and quizzes,” stated the tender floated by the office of the BMC chief engineer (mechanical and electrical) on behalf of the education department.
It mentioned that the shortlisted contractor will have to complete installing these digital classrooms within six months of the contract being awarded and also undertake teacher training sessions every three months.
The chief engineer’s office has further specified that the smart board should be an intel 3 (fifth generation or better) powered device, with at least 65 inches display, 50 GB memory and 4 GB RAM. It must have a minimum life space of 50,000 hours, and should be connected to a keyboard and a mouse.
Based on the various specifications, the civic body has estimated that each smart board will cost Rs 2.83 lakh, with an overall expenditure of Rs 38 crore. This included a cost of Rs 3.22 crore (Rs 24,780 per device) towards the preloading of e-learning and multimedia content on these devices, while the rest is for external electrical fittings.
On concerns about the cost and the availability of less expensive devices with better specifications, BMC Joint Commissioner Ashutosh Salil said: “The cost estimates for the tender were arrived at after evaluating listings and rates quoted by vendors on the Union government GeM portal (government e-marketplace)”.
Salil also clarified that the proposal for the tender had been processed before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Agreeing that school campuses were unlikely to reopen in the near future, he said that the tendering process and the awarding of the contract would also take a while.
A senior civic official said the initial estimated cost of the project was almost around Rs 60 crore and that it had been brought down to Rs 38 crore.
When contacted, Education Committee Chairman Anjali Naik told The Indian Express that she would “seek more details about the project”.
She added that BMC’s immediate priority was to ensure that every child, regardless of whether she has access to a smart phone or not, gets continued access to education. About 40 to 42 per cent of students enrolled in civic schools are using Internet and smart phones at present to access online classes and study materials. “Reaching out to the rest will be our priority,” Naik said.