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

A day after schools in several parts of Maharashtra were ordered to shut down once again amid rising Covid cases, barely a month after they reopened, 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 open as usual.

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

“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,” he added.
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 children 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 that they reconsider the decision.”

He added, “We have been 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 offline classes were started, except in one school in the state, we didn’t see any mass reporting of Covid-19 cases. So, we don’t agree to shutting down schools.”

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