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In West Bengal, parents demand reopening of schools, colleges

Students queue up to register themselves to get vaccinated at a school in Siliguri. File

Students queue up to register themselves to get vaccinated at a school in Siliguri. File

A campaign is on in West Bengal in favour of reopening of educational institutions, with many angry parents demanding to know why it is always the students who are made to sit home whenever pandemic–related restrictions are imposed.

Schools and colleges, which had reopened late last year, were to resume classes on January 2 after winter vacations but were shut again after the Omicron-driven third wave has caused an explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of now, they are to remain shut till January 31 but there is no official word yet on whether they will reopen after that date.

The campaign is reflecting online, with demands for re–opening of institutions being made under the hashtag #openschoolcollegeuniversities.

“There was a time when the closure was a necessity. But now that we are trying to normalise ourselves, why are students being made to stay home?” asked Sunetra Mitra, a professor of history at the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Vivekananda Vidyabhavan in Kolkata.

“You see the young people go everywhere — on vacations, to malls, to restaurants, to pandals — to seem to be going everywhere except to their schools or colleges.”

“Also, it is not possible for a vast majority of students to afford online classes. How many of them actually have access to a smartphone or laptop? Such students are eventually dropping out. In fact [with prolonged closure of educational institutions], we are creating an entire generation of dropouts. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to destroy the fabric of education,” said Prof. Mitra, who is the mother of a college-going daughter.

Slogans in Bengali, such as “No more Google/Zoom, give us back the classroom” are being shared online. Many of the parents demanding the return of offline education happen to be teachers themselves, who are unable to understand why classrooms need to be shut when much bigger gatherings of adults are permitted.

“The longer schools and colleges remain closed and the more we rely on apps, the very idea of the institution is going to be rendered useless, which in turn will severely impact the education system,” said college teacher Saubhik Bandyopadhyay, father of a teenager. “Technology is important, it can complement education, but it cannot replace classroom teaching.”

Mr. Bandyopadhyay, who recently wrote in the letters-to-the-editor column of a leading Bengali daily calling for resumption of offline classes, said closure of educational institutions was necessary two years ago because no one was prepared for a pandemic “but now schools and colleges must reopen with COVID protocols in place”.

“Closure is not a solution. The biggest disadvantage of online teaching is I cannot see the faces of my students. I have no idea how receptive they are. The online mode also compromises on the assessment during exams — meritorious students are at a great disadvantage,” Mr. Bandyopadhyay said.


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Printable version | May 12, 2022 11:40:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-west-bengal-parents-demand-reopening-of-schools-colleges/article38324645.ece