There was a time when parents were not even ready to think about schools with Covid playing havoc. A campaign was undertaken with a slogan “no school till every child got vaccinated”. Now, the situation has reversed. After 19 months of hiatus, parents are forcing school managements to reopen as they want their children not to miss out on academics anymore.
The Karnataka government has given the green signal to the primary schools to begin classes from 1st to 5th standard from October 26. Education Minister B.C. Nagesh has been touring across the state and visiting high schools. At a time when schools are reopening, the lockdown has left challenges for the student community, parents, teachers and school managements as well.
Experts say that it will take about 1 to 1.5 years for the children to catch up after losing out on offline classes for 19 months. High school students are really worried as they have to prepare for the Class 10 examinations.
When schools opened, only about 50 per cent of the students studying in Classes 9 and 10 came to school. After one week about 80 per cent attended classes and now it is 100 per cent. It is quite evident that in one month parents realized the importance of physical classes. They want classes to resume. There are positive vibes as jabs for children are coming, say school authorities.
Kiran Prasad, Core Committee Member of Associated Managements of Schools in Karnataka and an educator and founder of Vidya Vaibhav Education Institutes, said that parents know that children are lagging behind. The learning abilities of children are down by 50 to 60 per cent. Reading competencies, quantitative competencies related to mathematics and numeracy are reduced. The fourth standard student is still at the level of Class 1.
Mohammad Umar Farooq, Secretary of Private Schools and Children Welfare Association and Karnataka Union of Minority School Management Association, said that although not all parents are fed up with online classes, there is a good response to the opening of primary schools.
There are other concerns too. Kiran Prasad said that there will definitely be a 10 to 15 per cent dip in the performance of students. The student who scored 90 per cent will come down to 75 to 80 per cent. “In four-five months we have to get them streamlined by fulfilling their academic requirements. It is a very big challenge. Parents are realising it better. They are able to see where their child was and where he is now,” he said.
On the other hand, during the first wave of Covid, teachers were laid off and work was given to external vendors. Those with good command over English joined BPOs and other avenues. They have a steady income. Teaching is not a desirable position anymore. Some of the teachers have joined construction work and they do not want to come back to teaching as they are offered meagre salaries.
Sandeep C.S., CEO of Thyagaraju Central School in Bidadi, stated that their institute retained all the teaching staff during the pandemic. Most of the schools which terminated the teachers are finding it difficult to find new ones.
Kempe Gowda A.V., Secretary of ANGV Educational Trust and Devanahalli Private Schools Association, said that school managements are in deep trouble following the lockdowns. “Lot of schools which are not able to repay loans are being threatened by financiers. Though a petition was submitted to the Reserve Bank of India and the Karnataka government it was of no use. The banks have stopped giving loans,” he noted.
Riyaz S.K., Administrator of Jawahar English Medium School in Bidar, said the majority of the schools in the region depend only on tuition fees and since two years they have not got any fees. “We are like hand to mouth institutions. When there is nothing on hand, what will go to your mouth?” he asked.
Schools are now reopening and the situation will hopefully be better by January.