Amid school closures across Maharashtra, education experts, parents bat for offline classes

Amid school closures across Maharashtra, education experts, parents bat for offline classes

With schools in several parts of Maharashtra being ordered to shut down once again, barely a month after they reopened, amid rising Covid cases, education experts termed the decision to shut primary schools impractical and detrimental to the development of children.

Last month, the state government had allowed schools to resume offline classes for Classes I to VIII after continued demands from parents’ groups and educationists.

Former chairman of the state education board and education expert Vasant Kalpande questioned the logic of shutting down schools at a time when all other businesses are on as usual.

“We are not the only country affected by the new variant. In other parts of the world, where cases are much higher than us, the schools are still working as usual in the offline mode. In fact, the policy is to first shut down everything else and then close schools. However, in Maharashtra, we are seeing that schools are the first to shut down, even if a little spike is seen in cases and it is a very disturbing trend,” he said.

Kalpande added, “The loss of education is colossal. Besides, the social impact of school closures like children falling out of the education system and especially the impact on young girls needs to be taken into consideration.”

With children having returned to classrooms last month after a one-and-a-half-year gap, the decision took even parents by surprise.

Nisha Singh, a resident of Nibm Road, said, “To be honest, even we are concerned about the rising Covid cases but as a parent, I can say that online education is not working out. Children don’t pay attention and it has reached a burnout stage as they are not ready to sit in front of the screens.”

She added, “I had sent my daughter to school in December and now that they are shut again, she is very depressed. I think we should accept the new normal that the virus is here and we need to be cautious but we can’t avoid regular life. There is no guarantee that kids won’t contract the virus from a park or societies or malls so why stop their schooling?”

Harishchandra Gaikwad, president, Pune District Headmaster Association, said principals are disappointed with the decision. “We will make a representation to the Education department and the state government requesting to reconsider the decision.”

Gaikwad added, “It is high time schools are reopened. There are several reasons, amongst which the biggest concern is the educational loss of students because as teachers we can tell you, students do not follow online classes and several concepts are not understood. It will anyway be difficult to cope with the gap due to the last one and half years.”

He further said, “We have been repeatedly saying that the greatest loss is of students coming from low income families because they are still not joining online classes. More importantly, offline classes haven’t led to a spurt in Covid cases. When the offline classes were started, except in one school in the state, we didn’t see any mass reporting of Covid-19 cases. Hence, we don’t agree to shutting down schools.”