Schools in a Quandary

It is really worrying, when schools will reopen? Small kids have been in the confines of home for over 7 months now. It is uncertain when the Pandemic will end? When the Vaccines will become available? All uncertain.

While online classes and activities are done, and the parent engagement in the learning process has increased, it is not easy to manage energetic children beyond a few hours. Unless there are many children in the family, social interaction will only be with Adults in the family. If they are not kept busy, they become cranky and throw tantrums.

In over 7 months, I can see a perceptible change in their speech habits, vocabularies, and behaviour of my 4 year old Grandson. They lose their innocent childliness in speaking and some times use phrases that we at home use. I have begun to wonder if thi typical evolution of child’s behaviour is going through a big shift, by the time they return to school. It potentially could be slightly difference and may require correction and tempering. programme before the real lessons start?

It is also not going to be easy for 4 year old kids to restart the habit and routine of “going to school”.

On top of this there will also be the “Wait & Watch” Game. Every parent would want to wait until they are sure that for an initial period of a week or even a month t everything is working well and they have gained confidence that to ensure that everything working as normal and that their children will most like be safe.

Now imagine all parents play the “Wait & Watch” game, even after the schools reopen, the classes may be empty or sparsely populated. Good from a social distancing angle, but not good for education.

There will be addtional challenges of the strict SOPs to be followed even to enter the campus, and to ensure strict discipline of wearing masks, Gloves, Disposable shoes, sanitisation. Ensuring children will wash hands frequently with liquid soap water. Since Schools are not designed to provide exclusive bathrooms per student. Bathrooms are the locus of spread of infection. One houekeeper can be allotted to each wash room and tey be provided PPE kit to clean the wash room after every use. The means additional staffing, additional consumables, monitoring by apointing housekeeping supervisor.Every child has to be tested and the parents have to provide a No objection certificate for their children to be admitted to the school.crowding cannot be permitted, and it is not practical watch all of them, in spite of allocating floor supervisors, and also constantly watched by several hundred cameral that are active in the campus.

The schools has tro have a Infirmary with a doctor and a technician available full time, with all equipment in stock,and they should wear full PPE Kit while with the children.Even it is a mil cold, they cannot afford to take chances.

The entire school premises will have to be sanitised and fumigated at the end of every day. As per CBSE Guidelines and the School building norms, the room sizes and the seat ing has been provided to accommodated 30 children in a class room. In case social distancing norms have to be strictly adhered to, the building norms have to be changed, and new construction may become inevitable. The staff may also have to increase linearly..

Many schools may find this unviable, and may apply for closure. Are other schools including Government schools ready for taking the overflow?

In case the pandemic is over before the beginning of the next academic year, we could do all systems testing, and check out the SOPs multiple times before the buffer period of about one month happens. This buffer period should start well ahead of first day of school.

This means a few schools might disappear, and only the Education Ministry will have a strategy to provide them Education without comprising all the Standard operating procedures. And of Course without diluting the guidelines even in Government schools in cities and Rural areas.

The central government has left it to the decision of the state governments to make a decision on reopening of schools. The state Governments have naturally passed the baton to the District Administration to continue to assess the local situation before reopening.

The Question is “Who will bell the cat”? and When?

There are other issues of teachers being laid off, salaries not being paid, and delayed indefinitely. In some families both husband wife are teachers. They also families to take care of. How will it work?

There are many school that have collected fee in advance, sometime in February (they must have premonitions of the pandemic, or they were just cheating the system. Some schools have collected fee and “money” with a so called “discount” for 10 years of their children’;s study. What happens to such schools, parents and children?.

Will the Government authorities starting from BEOs, DDPI’s, Director, Commissioner and Principal secretary take action, on such schools that have violated many regulations. Can they also certify such schools that have run an honest organisation who have gone that extra mile to go beyond just online lecturing but providing comprehensive learning materials where by the parents helps the child in performing activities that are demonstrated by the teacher online.

While sincere and honest schools are innovating to make school Education more interesting with the given constraints of he Pandemic, it is to be noted that such genuine schools have also invested, with a pure intention of providing superior and differentiated education. Such school have not only promptly paid salaries for all the staff.

The government has been sending orders that are inconsistent and obviously interpreted by the local officers to their convenience. Many parent refuse to pay fees, or they pay in part. The Government had given clear instructions that any school that insists on Fee, will be prosecuted, not to mention the confusion created during the initial months of lockdown, when they Govt kept changing their stand on online education, multiple times and inconsistent too.

The Government of India promised Right to Education for all children in the country, the RTE.

f the pandemic continues for long some schools will die, some will survive, the biggest loss is the discontinuity in the Education, and the dilution of the intensity.

The children who are today in 11th an 12th standards who will smoothly pass through the system, with easy assessments and poor learning will become doctors and engineers of tomorrow.

It looks safe and the best option to me that we move into the Home Schooling mode, and NIOS system. May be when things are back to normal we can switch back.

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About the author

D Sudhanva is the founder and CEO at Excelsoft Technologies, a globally renowned eLearning Solutions Company. With a focus on transforming education across the world, Sudhanva has steered Excelsoft to be a thought leader in Education Technology with robust products delivering innovative solutions.

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