Kolkata, May 15 (IANS) The prolonged vacation announced by West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee-led government for state-run and aided schools in view of soaring temperatures has triggered apprehensions that the students’ interests would be hit with the teachers not getting ample time to complete the syllabus.
From April 11, all state-run and aided schools have remained closed due to the government order that followed the mercury touching 45 degree Celsius in some parts of the state.
Although these schools will reopen on May 16, the regular summer vacation starts immediately thereafter on May 19. The schools are again scheduled to resume classes around June 13.
As a direct fallout of the long holidays, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education has instructed schools to postpone the first summative evaluation, which now has to be completed between June 13 and 22.
“Holidays are almost becoming a daily routine, and classes are becoming rarer. Sitting for the exam as soon as the school reopens will definitely increase the pressure on us,” said a student of Class X in a state-aided school.
Sudeshna Kundu, teacher of a government-aided school at Bagnan in Howrah district, believes students, especially in the rural areas of Bengal, are bearing the brunt of the prolonged vacation.
The shortage of time and the lack of availability and affordability of private tutors pose a serious problem.
“In this backdrop, most of the rural students are dependent on the school curriculum for their education,” Kundu told IANS.
Students from the financially poor sections are further inconvenienced as they are missing out on their mid-day meal, which is one of the prime reasons they attend school.
Kundu said such holidays might also create a negative impact in the minds of the guardians, who could opt for other boards over the West Bengal Board for Secondary Education (WBBSE).
Sudip Moitra, a chemistry teacher of a city government school, rued that the students of classes 9 and 10 will be the worst sufferers.
“Since a considerable amount of class timings has been cut short, we will have to take shortcuts for completing the syllabus. This will inevitably make their basic knowledge weak,” Moitra told IANS.
The headmistress of Duff School for Girls, Helen S. Sircar, said the classes were not held to protect the students from the oppressive heat and humidity.
“Extra classes will be arranged if necessary,” Sircar told IANS.
Education minister Partha Chatterjee, however, claimed that the holidays would not impact the students as they can always study at home.
Rebutting the minister, renowned educationist Pabitra Sarkar said students would never study seriously at home when they are in a “holiday mood”.
Sarkar, former vice chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, termed the decision to close schools as “ill-thought-out and ridiculous” when several private schools were holding regular classes.
“Heat cannot be an excuse for such a prolonged vacation”, Sarkar told IANS.
Slamming the education minister, Sarkar said: “Holidays are being declared at will in Bengal.. Newer occasions and festivals are now getting incorporated in the holiday list. I find this attitude Tughlaq-ish.”
Apart from instructing the state-run and state aided schools to shut down, Chatterjee had also requested the private schools not to hold classes due to the “intense heat”.
But several private schools either disregarded his advice or opened after a short break to complete the syllabus within the allotted time for conducting timely examinations.
Mamata Mallik, a private school teacher, said: “Our school has remained open. But the class hours were curtailed so that the girls could reach home quickly by avoiding the afternoon heat”.
(Saptarshi Mallik may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)