Teachers urge reopening of primary schools in Maharashtra

Representational Image   | Photo Credit: PTI

One of the largest representative bodies of primary school teachers in Maharashtra has requested the State government to restart primary schools by decentralising decision-making powers at the tehsil level.

The Maharashtra State Primary Teachers Committee (MSPTC), which represents over 1.50 lakh of its members, has highlighted in its letter the extreme disparity in access to online education, saying that for the majority of students from the primary section, education had “almost stopped” for one to one-and-a-half years. “Online education cannot be the replacement of classroom. The requirements for this, including mobile range, are not available everywhere. Students not only from remote areas and from poor, labourer families but even those in middle-class have not been able to access online education,” said the letter, addressed to State’s School Education minister Varsha Gaikwad.

Vijay Kombe, general secretary, MSPTC, said, “We now have a batch of students from Class 1 who have never seen the school. Students have lost out on the foundation [in learning] of language and mathematics. We took an opinion of our members and the majority wanted schools to reopen.”

Experts, too, have voiced in favour of reopening schools. “Young children learn through personal interactions, be it with teachers or peers or with their surroundings. It becomes impossible in online education even if one discounts the digital divide. Learning is primarily a social activity and online-only education comes with severe limitations,” said Kishore Darak, who works with the education team of the Tata Trusts.

He added that it was important to remember schools are not merely spaces for formal learning but are places providing safety, offering opportunities in peer-socialisation, and providing nutrition. Closure of schools for 15 months has severely impacted these possibilities, thus making it almost mandatory to open schools in face-to-face mode. “Education of marginalised children cannot be treated as a collateral. It is their fundamental right to life,” said Mr. Darak.

The letter suggested a decentralised approach, with a tehsil to be considered as a unit. Based on the positivity rate and active case numbers, the decision to restart schools could be taken. The letter added that various means, such as odd-even days or 50% attendance, or two shifts of school, could be called safety measures.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:42:28 PM |

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