Even as the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is mulling reopening schools after August 15, the government is yet to share guidelines on how schools will function after the lockdown. While school administrations have less than two months to prepare, it is parents who are more concerned.
Many parents are not willing to send their children to school and demand to continue classes through the online mode. But for those who do not have access to the online infrastructure, the situation is worse. An online petition on change.org by the Parent Association demands that schools remain shut until “zero COVID cases in the (respective) state”. The petition has over 9.06 lakh signatures as of June 22. It claims, “Not a single child to be sent to the schools for their own safety” and demands that the entire “academic session should continue in e-learning mode.”
Drastic reduction in the syllabus
“Sending my child in a PPE kit to school seems a terrible idea,” a parent of a class 10 student in Gurugram told indianexpress.com. “As a mother, my child’s security is my primary concern and no one can force us to send our children to school till we feel they are safe. The online classes can continue to take place till the situation gets better,” she remarked.
She suggested the syllabus be reduced. “Schools should reduce the syllabus drastically to ease some pressure off children. Being confined to their homes, studying an entire year only to see the exams getting cancelled, the threat of a pandemic and looming uncertainty are already enough for these teenage kids to deal with,” she said.
Strict guidelines for online education
Many parents, who earlier had concerns over online classes not being the right mode of study now prefer it the on-campus option which is “even worse”. The fear is higher among parents of younger children.
Varun Khanna, president, Amritsar Parents’ Welfare Association, citing a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), New Delhi said that “online education exposes students to too much of screen time and affects their psychological development.”
“If online education is the only resort left then we should ensure it is done properly and strict guidelines are followed not only for children but also for teachers who have to manage several classes, counsel parents, and manage their own families too,” added Khanna.
Build trust with your child first
Radhika Singh, a therapist and parent herself commented, “If parents think the situation is conducive to send their children to school by August, then their child would reflect that belief to step out. Firstly, parents will have to build that trust with their children. Parents need to take a stand and be clear with their child and provide guidance.”
“As a parent, I am not willing to let my child feel vulnerable for something s/he has not done,” said Singh.
“A child’s safety is undeniably important to both parents as well as the school. If the situation does not improve by August then together we can find a way,” she added.
Not all schools are the same
Alka Kapur, principal of Modern Public School Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi said that every school is different and online education conducted by them too depends on the means available to them. “For schools, students as well as teachers are a major concern. Most schools function on the student-teacher ratio of 1:40; in some schools, it is worse. Some schools have been turned into relief centres and even quarantine facilities; in such cases, parents are more apprehensive and stricter sanitisation norms need to be followed. Plus, every school has students under EWS (economically weaker section) quota who do not have access to resources. We at our school send them photostat copies of notes but in most cases, the parents are not literate, which means it is a greater challenge for these students,” she explained.
Kapur added, “With monsoon approaching, opening schools might not be a great idea as students are prone to catching general flu and viruses during these times. A pandemic looming large can have an adverse effect. We will continue online education but even if one student wishes to come to school and study and the government approves, we have a duty to be operational for that single child.”
She added that moving ahead, her school and others will focus more on creating a blended learning ecosystem for students.
Due to pay-cuts, many parents are also shifting their children to government schools. Manit Jain, Chairman FICCI ARISE said, “Over 90 per cent of the students in private schools have been getting proper online classes in Delhi NCR. In the case of such schools, the academic losses would be minimal. Many educators across the country are claiming that they are able to cover more syllabus in lesser time. Regardless, this is a temporary situation and there is no cause for panic, so long as online learning continues. We would encourage parents to consider the child’s socio-emotional health, remain connected with their social groups, and not make any significant disruption in the students’ lives.”
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