The Patna High Court has asked the Bihar government to look for ways beyond online teaching for the nearly 1.19 crore children who are unable to attend classes in the current Covid crisis that has forced closure of schools.
The court order on Friday was in response to a suo motu cognisance it took of a June 7 story by The Indian Express, highlighting how children in Bhagalpur district had taken to selling scrap due to discontinuation of mid-day meal scheme after schools closed because of the pandemic.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar asked the state government to “continue schemes like the Mid-Day Meal and the Sarwa Shiksha Scheme to provide meals or ration as feasible along with textbooks and notebooks to government school students”.
The court added “the government had to ensure that statutory benefits under the Food Security Act are disbursed in a timely manner, and updated records are maintained for the same”.
The court asked the government to “procure and prepare digital lectures for students of all classes; install community-level television sets and distribute radio sets and ensure the increase of reach of remote learning platforms”.
“Perhaps, at the community level, small batches of children can be shown lectures on televisions, while maintaining social distancing norms,” said the court order.
The court said as penetration of mobile handsets in Bihar was bigger than TV and radio sets, authorities should “consider devising and implementing an action plan to utilise” these mediums.
“To ensure engagement, consider expanding the possibility of waiver of telecom charges on the mobile handset or telephone being used for accessing educational programmes. Use Telecom/digital infrastructure to mark the daily attendance of students. A call placed on the designated toll-free number may be programmed to record the daily attendance of the concerned student”, said the court order.
The court order asked the government to “organise a robust “Back to School” campaign in the wake of this pandemic to ensure that a minimal dropout rate is achieved”.
The court also asked the government to monitor nutritional health of children by
leveraging the reach of Anganwadi workers, who can keep track of children’s growth by recording the weight and height of children at regular intervals.
“Enhance the role of Anganwadi and NGO workers in every district, to help spread the message of the importance of continuing education via remote
learning platforms. Parents to be educated, for ensuring the child’s continuous engagement in education during the pandemic”, said the court.
The court suggested that workshops and training for teachers ought to be provided to ensure that they are well-equipped in dealing with post-pandemic psychosocial needs of children.
Following the The Indian Express report, both the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Patna High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of discontinuance of midday meal. The state government resumed food grain distribution in schools and gave periodic compliance report to the high court. The matter was disposed of Friday.
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