Across the ‘class’ divide, Avishi Goyal is also happy to be back at her private school in Delhi, but still trying to make a habit of wearing a mask at all times, not sharing lunch boxes and sitting socially away from others .
A month after the Delhi government allowed students of classes 9 to 12 to return to schools with 50 per cent capacity from September 1, students and teachers welcomed the return of normalcy.
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The pandemic means different things to different people – people like Mansi often asked to give up their online classes as the eldest of three siblings, the more fortunate Avishi who had the equipment, but often her There used to be attention, and the learning community that balances the Covid fear, the responsibilities of the household and the arduous task of connecting with students through screens.
While the threat of COVID exists, the number of cases has dwindled in large parts of the country, prompting teachers, parents and students to say that normalcy is needed so that effective learning can continue . Many are of the view that the decision to go back to the classroom is an answer to the digital divide, issues of quality of education, mental and physical health and the need for social interaction.
“I often missed a class because one or the other of my siblings was attending them. It’s a relief that schools have opened. Now I don’t have to worry about phone and frequent network issues. No need,” 16-year-old Mansi, the driver’s daughter, told PTI.
Sania Saifi, who is also studying in class 11, also suffered the consequences of the yawning digital divide. There was only one phone call between him and his housewife mother.
Sania said, “It was difficult to sit in the class because someone used to call on the phone and my class would get disconnected even before my call was disconnected. It would have been difficult to attend the class often due to network problem.”
As the COVID-19 situation eased across the country, several states including Telangana, Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan started calling students back to school from early July.
However, Delhi is on alert. On Wednesday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority decided to reopen schools for junior classes only after the festive season, official sources said. Sources present at the meeting chaired by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said it said the Covid situation in the city is “good” but caution should be exercised.
While students like Mansi and Sania are able to bridge the digital divide by returning to the classroom with limited resources, Avishi is also thrilled to be back among her friends.
“It’s fun to go back because we’ll have network issues or teachers won’t be able to pay attention to everyone. The best thing about going back is the physical interactions with friends and teachers. It’s also nice to meet up with friends, Said the class 9 student.
His father Basant Goyal, who owns a chemist’s shop in the national capital, has doubts about the new “hybrid mode of education”. However, she is content for now as her daughter is finally getting some physical activity.
In hybrid mode, the Delhi government has allowed parents to decide whether they want to send their child to school or not. So some students attend online classes along with offline students.
“We tried online for a few days, but there’s nothing better to show the projector or the blackboard at school. Also, the teacher’s attention is divided between online and offline students, so we had to send him to school if If nothing else, he is physically active now.
It has not been easy for school administration and teachers to move towards hybrid.
According to Sunita Swaraj, principal of The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj, this presented a new set of challenges.
“Switching to hybrid seemed easy, but we also have to deal with the limitations of bandwidth, network disruption, presence maintenance and virtual and physical space as well as management,” Swaraj told PTI.
She said the school decided to call in a staggered small staff to “facilitate collaborative learning and limit the number of students on campus” to students.
Teach for India Fellow Anirudh Bhattacharya said being in the classroom connects teachers and students in a way that is not possible on the screen.
“Everyone has at least one teacher in their life whom you can tell anything from breakups to your family issues. They can only share such problems with that one teacher who is also a friend. In online environments It becomes very difficult,” Bhattacharya, who teaches at a school in Delhi, said.
The pandemic hit teachers equally, if not worse. Delhi school teacher Satyendra Gautam said he was expected to have maturity and compassion at a time when he himself could grieve, adding that adapting to the new reality was the only option.
“Some of our comrades came back from the clutches of death, some died in families. But as an adult you are expected to mature and work with the situation as we had to take care of our students as well. So we adapted to the new conditions,” Gautam said.
Experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research recently said that schools need to be reopened in a phased manner, starting from primary classes, with proper implementation of multi-layered COVID-19 mitigation measures. In an opinion piece in The Indian Journal of Medical Research, experts said the testing strategy in school settings can serve as a key intervention to check the possible spread of the virus. He also cited a UNESCO report that more than 320 million children have been affected by school closures in India for more than 500 days. This has affected children from relatively disadvantaged settlements and slums, many of whom are not able to read more than a few words. A survey found that students missed out on social interaction, lacked physical activity and had a feeling of loosening of bonds of friendship due to prolonged school closures, Opinion Pieces’ reopening schools during the Covid-19 pandemic Spotting: A Persistent Dilemma’.