Reopen classes for primary schools: Educationists, health experts urge Karnataka govt

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Reopen classes for primary schools: Educationists, health experts urge Karnataka govt

While offline classes have started for students in Classes 10 and 12, the government has not decided on offile classes for students in other grades.

With the Karnataka government remaining indecisive on the issue of reopening primary schools, educationists and other stakeholders have been urging the government to reopen schools from February 1 onwards. Vidyartigala Nade Shaleya Kade, a group of educationists and public health experts have been pushing for primary schools to reopen since December 2020. The group of experts have sent multiple representations to the Karnataka government and also shot brief videos of children demanding to go back to school.

Speaking to TNM, Dr Niranjan Aradhya, Senior Fellow, Centre for Child and the Law at NLSIU, who is also a member of the group, said that the state government would have to reopen anganwadis as the Supreme Court has directed all states and union territories to reopen anganwadis before January 31. “If anganwadis have to be open then why not primary schools. The state government should consider the need for schools to reopen not only because many children in rural areas cannot access online education, but also keeping in mind their need for nutrition and ability to interact with their peers,” he said.

Dr Niranjan says that based on the National Sample Survey Organisation’s information, only 11% of rural India has access to mobile phones and 2% have access to the internet. He maintains that data shows that only 0.09% of children in Karnataka between the age group of 1 and 10 years have contracted the coronavirus, while 0.11% of children between the age group of 11 and 12 have contracted the virus.

“The state government’s decision to not reopen primary schools is unscientific. Most of the parents of students in government schools are agricultural workers or daily wage labourers. Sending children to school is not only so they can learn but school forms a part of their daily support system. Besides, children between the age group of 5 and 12 years need to go to school to learn. They need the presence of teachers and their peers,”he adds.

He says that in rural areas, children have been losing out on mid-day meals, which has affected the malnutrition levels and reopening primary schools is the logical solution. “Use of technology in education must be supplementary and it should not become a substitute for education. School education is not only about information overload but children learn social interaction and the connection to their teachers and peers is crucial,” he added.

The Karnataka government allowed offline classes to begin from January 1 for students in Classes 10 and 12. For students in government schools studying in Classes 6 to 9, the government allowed classes under the Vidyagama scheme. Under this programme, classes are held in open spaces in batches where a teacher takes classes for a group of not more than 10 to 15 students at a time. In addition, pre-recorded YouTube classes have been uploaded for students in primary school.

Officials with the Department of Public Instruction said that they have recommended restarting offline classes for Classes 6 to 9 from February. The Primary and Secondary Education Department is yet to take a decision on this recommendation, the official said. “One of the reasons why the government is hesitant to reopen schools for younger children is because there was a lot of pushback from parents when children in Belagavi, Kalaburagi and other districts turned positive when the Vidyagama scheme was started for students in all classes. A decision will be taken by the end of the week,” the  Primary and Secondary Education Department said.

Report : ( Jithesh Jain )