Parents scared, homeschooling best
Since the Covid has wreaked havoc across the globe, parents are totally flummoxed about sending their wards to school despite the decline in ongoing cases. Undoubtedly, they want complete safety of their children and taking even a single risk may cost dear. Thus, there is no better solution than to let the homeschooling go on but in such a way that the monotonous online classes do not get under their skin. An initiative can be taken by parents living in close geographic proximity to co-host some activities with proper safety measures so that youngsters can procure those moral values of togetherness and team work. Though everyone is bracing themselves to adapt the new version of normalcy, parents need to become more forbearing and creating an environment in helping them learn real life problems. Moreover, timely feedback from teachers can allow them to reflect more on their wards thus creating a positive relationship amongst them.
Reopening should have been delayed
The forced closure of universities, colleges and schools during the pandemic has seriously disrupted our education system. Realising its potential for employment generation and holistic growth of the country, the Centre first permitted online teaching-learning process. But, it deprived poor and marginalised students and those from rural, remote areas who had no access to digital resources such as smart phones, laptops and internet connectivity. Traditional classroom teaching in schools helps in a child's cognitive development and saves him from multiple socio-economic, physical and psychological threats. Moreover, it is necessitated by laboratory and project management requirements. The Punjab government, in line with the Union Ministry of Education, has issued guidelines for partial reopening of schools for Classes XI to XII in a graded manner. Notwithstanding reduced strength in classes, shorter hours, morning and evening shifts, flexible attendance norms, mandatory thermal checking, cleaning and sanitisation of school facilities, wearing face masks and social distancing, a majority of parents or guardians are not keen to send their wards to schools. In the given scenario, most schools are ill-equipped and ill-prepared for usual functioning maintaining safety protocols will be a daunting task for the administration. Though there is a limited community transmission at present, the virus may rear its head again during the upcoming festival season and winter months. Undernourished and physically and mentally stressed children have a weak immune system and are susceptible to viral infection. Keeping in view the public health perspective, the government should have ignored the commercial interests of big private players and delayed the reopening of schools for some time more. It would have saved students and teachers from unnecessary exposure to the deadly risks.
Digital mode of classes is reliable
There is no denying the fact that the Covid-19 induced lockdown has affected the life of every sector, including the education sector. Both the faculty and learners are going through a difficult phase. The parents and guardians are in a fix and majority of them are not at all willing to send their wards to school. After all, it is a matter of safety and security of their children, which of course, no parent can ever think of putting at risk. As far as the students are concerned, their school days are full of glory, playfulness and mingling together along with studying. But sadly, the mask wearing, distancing and other strict regulations will certainly not let them exercise their free will. They may feel to be fettered and bound in a classroom. Moreover, imparting teaching with a mask on their face can drain out the teachers for sure. The biggest concern is if a single student comes in contact with any symptomatic person (the school staff members come from diverse backgrounds and localities), the consequences can be quite detrimental. So, I believe most of the parents will avoid digging at their own heels by ticking the correct option of not sending their sons and daughters to school in these trying times. For the time being, online mode of teaching is the most preferred and only viable option left. It will be really kind and nice of the government if it can bail out the education sector financially. I mean both the schools and students need a financial incentive and booster to keep pace with the mainstream online teaching-learning environment.
Simranjeet Singh Saini
Online classes should continue
Punjab government decided to reopen schools after taking approval from the Health Department and SoPs issued by the Education Department. Only students of class XI to XII are permitted with parental consent and the attendance will not be compulsory. Online classes should continue. Arts and Commerce students can study online but Science students need a laboratory for experimental work. Wearing of masks, maintaining social distance, provision of thermal scanning and use of sanitiser shall be mandatory. However, it's a matter of concern that reopening of schools can lead to a sudden increase the number of virus cases causing major health crisis, so the school authorities must consult the state Health and Family Welfare Department.
Admn should keep a close watch
In view of overall improvement in the current scenario, the government has initiated the process of relaxing the constraints, including opening of schools in the state. The decision to seek mandate from the parents of students could not evoke adequate response as majority of them have preferred not to send their wards. It is unfortunate that the public lack trust in government’s initiatives but the process of normalisation cannot be derailed and any obstacle needs to be analysed for immediate remedial measures. In the given situation, the administration should continue monitoring the situation very closely while ensuring that all necessary precautions at the schools are being taken seriously to win the confidence of reluctant parents. Once it is palpable to the parents, the attendance of students is expected to rise in coming days.
A premature step of the government
The Punjab Government’s decision to abolish night and Sunday curfews is a welcomed one as the general public was inconvenienced without yielding matching results. But, upward revision in limit of gatherings at marriages and funerals up to 100 is a premature step and could be avoided in view of available statistics relating to existing status of the pandemic. It is generally observed that distancing norms and other basic precautions are not strictly followed by the participants at such occasions. Moreover, the society had already adapted to the restrictions as social acceptance for greater cause. The step should have been deferred till the next unlocking phase for taking appropriate decision according to prevailing scenarios.
Tough but it's time for regular classes
Remaining closed for more than six months due to the lockdown, schools and coaching institutes in Punjab started functioning in a graded manner from October 15. The State announced that it would allow the partial reopening of schools and coaching institutions with strict protocols. Teachers have done magnificently during the pandemic, because the sudden transition to online teaching, learning how to use software tools to prepare and present teaching materials is a difficult task. Tests are being conducted and the school management as well as the teachers are doing a remarkable job. If the schools throughout the world reopened a few months ago, our country can also follow suit. Reopening, even in a phased manner, poses a lot of challenges for school managements given that enforcing discipline among people like distancing and wearing of masks is still a difficult proposition. It is also difficult for teachers who would have to get used to wearing masks while teaching and keep a check on for the same during class hours. At the same time, they will have to continue with the rigors of online teaching like preparing material online, correcting homework and internal assessments. As of now, the SoP by the government clearly says that students from Classes XI-XII can go to school on a voluntary basis to clear doubts. However, most parents in urban area are planning to wait for another ten days for sending their wards to school. Physical presence of students in class enhances confidence of students as well as teachers. Online education was right, but it is not a long term solution. Too much exposure to screens of mobiles and laptops leads to a feeling of isolation and anxiety in the current scenario. This can have an adverse physical impact on children. Now, it is time to shift it to regular classes.
Why putting more lives at risk?
The basic difference between imparting of education at school and college is that all students at a school come at a fixed time and leave the premises also at a fixed time, whereas in colleges, student's arrival and departure varies according to their periods. So, gathering at the beginning and finishing time at schools is unavoidable. Also, most of the school students make use of the school bus, where physical distancing is not possible. Moreover, formula of 50 per cent occupancy in classrooms is not possible. The choice of online study or physical attendance is out of question because it involves huge financial resources. Above all, when online studies are giving satisfactory results why state government is putting efforts to venture into this risky step. Both the stakeholders, school managements and parents are not favouring starting of schools at this stage. Although the cases are declining, but still, the disease has not disappeared. Many countries in the world are facing the second wave. Instead of putting efforts in this venture, the state government should make efforts to revive tourism in the holy city as whole of the economy depends heavily upon this single sector.
People are developing complacency during the festival season. Experts have warned of another Covid wave in the winter season. What measures the Punjab Government should take to curb the second surge?
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