Rma Krishna S
Telangana CM KCR’s decision to reopen schools and colleges from February 1, Tuesday, is a good move. Even Tamil Nadu has decided to reopen all educational institutions from January 31, Monday, almost three week of extended Sankranti holidays. These institutions were shut in the wake of growing number of cases of Covid third wave, triggered by Omicron variant of the virus.
We must appreciate the intention of the governments to shut schools and colleges to protest the youngsters who could be easy targets for this highly transmissible virus. But if we take the overall loss of our educational system, including government and private institutions put together, due to the closure, the cost is so huge than the benefit.
Already, IMF and our own Parliamentary Standing Committee on education headed by Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe say that India has shut schools and colleges for over 600 days since March 2020. Around 22 crore students in 1 to 12th standards and above have lost two precious academic years, ending up with poor learning skills. Online learning is nominal in most of our states.
Lakhs of students from rural areas or poorer families have swung back to wage labourer or dropped out of schools because of discontinuation of mid-day meal scheme. Even universities have vacated students from hostels thus forcing them to go back to villages where Internet connectivity is either poor or nil.
Now that the governments have decided to end extended holidays, we must take some precautionary measures – like making available medical facilities at all educational institutions and keep some mobile medical teams to check students. For this a joint mechanism with medical and health officials and school education commissioner should be set up immediately.
If necessary, an educational infrastructure corporation on the lines of medical infra should be set up and smartphones or tabs be supplied to all the needy students from below the poverty line families. Efforts must be made to see that the lost school days can be restored to these students by conducting bridge courses or extra classes.