Mumbai: Want academic year, but we don't want to send kids to school, says parents

Updated: 19 November, 2020 07:10 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Parents and teachers tell mid-day that the plan to reopen schools with all the govt SOPs will disrupt the smooth ongoing teaching pattern of online classes; will state listen to them?

A staffer prepares a classroom for the reopening in a Panvel school
A staffer prepares a classroom for the reopening in a Panvel school

Why is the government in such a hurry to reopen schools?' — ask parents, teachers and schools even as they reluctantly plan for the fast-approaching date of November 23. While over 90 per cent of parents, who send their children to private schools, have already refused consent, students of municipal schools are still in their hometowns and their parents fear giving written consent. While everyone wants the academic year to continue, they do not want that to happen with in-person classes.

There is more apprehension than willingness regarding the reopening of schools.

A worker sanitises St JosephHigh School in Panvel
A worker sanitises St JosephHigh School in Panvel

"Not even 6 per cent of parents are willing to send their kids to school. To reopen schools, we need at least 60 per cent of them to respond positively. It is not feasible to open schools for just a few children. Instead, we will continue to focus on our online module, which is preferred by parents. We have also developed novel evaluation patterns to gauge students' level of understanding through assignments and project work," said R Rodrigues, trustee of the Antonio Da Silva School in Dadar. The school, like many others, has been reaching out to parents for consent.

"We are in tune with the new routine. Disrupting it makes no sense. It is not possible to control children of this age. In a huge set-up like school, where there will be so many of them gathering, it is not possible to sanitise every surface all the time. Wherever in the world or in the country schools reopened, COVID-19 cases started rising. Why should we take a chance?" questioned Pallavi Rajwade, a parent who's child studies at Lakshadham School, an ICSE board school in Goregaon.

Kalpana Dwivedi, principal, St Joseph High School
Kalpana Dwivedi, principal, St Joseph High School

Rajwade further suggested that instead of daily school they can call students in batches for more important sessions such as science practical or board exam practice etc. "What is the point of conducting this half-school session of four hours only for three subjects. Instead, they can focus on holding practical sessions, doubt-solving sessions or even exams in a staggered manner so that there will be no huge daily gathering."

"Government should wait and collect the data on parents' opinion from schools and then take decisions based on the information received," shared Kalpana Dwivedi, principal, St Joseph High School in Panvel, which is affiliated to the CBSE board. This school, too, is currently in the process of collecting parents' consent before deciding on a further course of action.

Anil Bornare, a teacher
Anil Bornare, a teacher

Another dimension

While there is a clear no from parents who send kids to private schools, the situation is different in civic schools or those aided schools where children come from weaker socio-economic backgrounds with lack of access to online learning.

"Most of my students are not here as their families shifted to their hometowns in UP, Bihar and rural Maharashtra. When we suggested sending kids to school to those who are here, they nodded happily. But when asked to give written consent, most of them refused as they felt this means a risk. We as schools may be all ready to reopen as per rules but parents are apprehensive," said Ambarsing Magar, principal of a BMC-run school in Ghatkopar.

Ramdas Jadhav, a parent who's kids study at a civic school
Ramdas Jadhav, a parent who's kids study at a civic school

Magar added how online learning is not really an alternative for students from civic schools. "At every school, teachers have developed ways to ensure students continue studying by keeping them engaged with learning activities at home," said Magar, who caters to a community of parents who have little awareness about education and children are most likely to drop out due to such long breaks. He continued, "This is why putting an entire academic year on hold due to the pandemic is not an option. But developing novel ways of teaching for such students is important."

Anil Bornare, a teacher from Swami Muktanand High School in Chembur, said, "Over 90 per cent parents have refused to give consent. Government has asked us for our opinion regarding reopening. They should have done this before issuing the order. There is the ever-present fear of the second wave. They should have continued with online learning."

'Can't bring kids to city'

Ramdas Jadhav, a daily wage worker at the Sassoon Dock fish market, returned to the city eight days ago from his village in Ahmednagar. His kids who study at a BMC school in Colaba are still in the village. "I cannot call my family here yet. I don't have enough money to survive here and it is not feasible to bring kids in a slum. I returned to begin earning," said Jadhav, who has managed to arrange a smartphone for his twin sons at their village. He added that his kids are studying but perhaps at a slower pace. "I am glad that they can study safely. Many parents are struggling. Civic school children should be helped with online learning," Jadhav said.

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First Published: 19 November, 2020 07:10 IST

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