The Centre’s decision to partially reopen school on a voluntary basis comes at a time when the students have adapted themselves to the new normal. As the decision is aimed to bring back life to normalcy, students are now perplexed to decide between their health and career as both can’t be ignored. Gradually continuing the unlock process in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued new sets of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to partially reopen physical classrooms for classes 9-12 from 21 September. The ministry has clearly mentioned that online/distance learning should continue to be permitted and also encouraged. Meanwhile, it also limited the strength of concerned teaching and non-teaching employees up to 50 % to be called to schools for online teaching/telecounselling and related work.
Based on the recent government announcement of Unlock 4.0, Heritage Xperiential Learning School (HXLS) conducted an online survey for students and parents to understand their views regarding the reopening of schools for students outside of containment zones. The survey results stated that only 8% of parents/students expressed their desire to come to school under the current conditions for assistance classes. Most parents stated that they were happy with the online classes being offered and would prefer to review the situation once the Covid-19 numbers start reducing. Kevin Brady, head senior programme HXLS said, “We have largely adapted to lockdown conditions by using all available resources to foster meaningful online relationships with our students and as time has passed, this has become less difficult to accomplish. Based on the survey, while the majority of families may still prefer that these interactions take place virtually, we are prepared to provide the support students require in both virtual and traditional contexts. It is important that we carefully consider the needs and expectations of our families and embrace the flexibility to meet their needs.”
Talking about parents’ unwillingness to send their children to school amid the fear of a pandemic, Sangeeta Hajela, principal, DPS Indirapuram, adds, “We consider it important to have a clear communication between all stakeholders — the management, parents, staff members (teaching/ non-teaching) and students. Their preparedness, both physical and mental, will be important before we embark on it. Parents’ consent, as per the advisory, would also be taken for the same. The infrastructural groundwork for reopening of the school is also very much in place, with all details carefully planned and executed.”
The latest SOPs also make it mandatory for schools to maintain proper sanitation in the school campuses. For some, this may look easy but according to Anusha Shridhar, a student of class 12th, many schools in the country lack the basic infrastructure and resources to maintain the physical distancing norms and sanitation. “As crucial this may be, I think it is still very dangerous for students to step out of their houses for education. Not all schools have a big budget to install safety sanitary measures in their schools and without the basic facilities, it is just pointless for students to attend school. With the rising number of cases of coronavirus in India, you would be risking even more lives by opening schools and that is just not what the situation calls for,” says Anusha.
“If our MPs who are sitting in Parliament are not safe then how can students or teachers feel safe amid the pandemic? Students use common washrooms, there are limited spaces and students often eat lunch together. If any one of them gets infected then there’s a possibility that others too may get infected. There’s also lack of transport facilities and public transport too offers a chance of Covid spread. Who will take care of it?” adds Vaishnavi Halder, a student of Amity University, Mumbai.
Along with students, parents too have raised their concerns on reopening of school when India is reporting around one lakh Covid cases daily. “It’s not safe to send children to schools in a pandemic. Children unknowingly expose themselves to virus and there’s no one to guide them on the safety measures. It’s difficult for anyone to wear a mask for long hours. If children get infected, they can bring the virus home and it may spread in the family or in the locality as well. Senior citizens might get infected too. It would be better to continue classes for home right now,” says Purnima Biswas, a Raipur-based parent.
However, Delhi-based parent Anu Bajaj also feels that it is a welcoming step as students would be able to take guidance from students.“ The children’s health is also to be taken in consideration while also looking after their academic development. As long as we stick to the safety guidelines and are vigilant towards managing our health, this decision is more than welcoming,” adds Anu.
As the uncertainty remains, schools are doing their level best to ensure best safety measures to contain spread of virus in the campuses however, they feel that this decision will surely have consequential effects on every stakeholder. Pankaj Rathore, head master, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Lucknow says, “With all safety measures in place, we are very much ready and eager to get back in the classroom; however, amidst rising number of cases, reopening is tough. Many parents are fearful and afraid over reopening the school. If a teacher joins from an area with a higher number of cases and last but not the least, our helping staff, whether they will be able to come up transparent with their health problems. With concerns about no proper medication available at this point of time, regular physical classes will have consequential effects moving forward despite taking all precautionary measures. In the end we should understand that if we want to be successful in opening the schools, we need to strictly follow the blended learning approach.”
Though concerns over Covid spread in schools are valid, many also believe that reopening of schools would allow the lesser privileged children, who lack resources like mobiles, Internet, computers, to be benefitted from physical classrooms. Dr Madhav Deo Saraswat, principal, The Scindia School, says, “Globally there have been few successes and some failures and therefore all the prescribed guidelines, even if followed fully, can never guarantee 100% safety. However, given the increased screen time, loneliness and unhealthy lifestyle; and the fact that there is a very small percentage of students in this country who have access to the necessary IT tools to continue knowledge acquisition, reopening, in my opinion, looks like a probable option.”
Reena Rai, English TGT, Jindal Public School, Delhi, adds “A few of my students’ parents either lost their jobs or had to cut down on expenses, being able to afford a steady Internet connection and a personal phone/laptop for the child to attend classes was not easy. With the re-opening of schools, all my students will be able to take the classes that do not require over-the-top expenses, which was not possible earlier. I have witnessed that students need a non-virtual teacher-student relationship and a child-peer relationship that is necessary for a child’s physical and emotional growth.”
It is difficult to match the quality of education only through online education, therefore, online education should be looked at as a very efficient but only an interim solution to continue the learning. “Operating systems of a school environment is based on various systems and processes run by the educators, administrators, students, and parents, it is not just about the readiness of physical infrastructure, school operations are designed to facilitate intellectual activities within its campus, the usage of mind is higher as compared to the other activities, therefore only a mind without fear can facilitate the learning, observe the learning and support the overall learning,” says Ritesh Rawal, founder, Dudes & Dolls The Cosmic School, Adhyay School, Delhi NCR.
HIRING ACTIVITY RISES 24% IN SEPT 2020 VERSUS A MONTH BEFORE
Hiring activity in India rose by 24% in September 2020 as compared to August 2020, as seen in the Naukri JobSpeak Index. At 1755, the job index marked a great improvement of 24% in September as against 1413 in August after the sharp drop in April 2020 due to Covid-19. “The last quarter has seen significant uptick in the hiring activity, growing at 14% compared to 8% decline in AMJ’ 20. While the hiring is yet to touch last year levels and is down by 23% in Sept’20 versus Sept’19 but this is also a marked recovery from a 35%-60% decline that we have witnessed in the last few months,” Pawan Goyal, Chief Business Officer, Naukri.com The 24% M-O-M growth is being propelled by industries like Pharma (+44%), FMCG (+43%), Education/Teaching (+41%) and IT (+32%). Further opening up of the economy with unlock measures and increased mobility has led to an improvement in hiring activities in industries like Real Estate (+44%), Auto/Ancillary (+29%) and Hospitality/Travel (+48%) versus August’20.
‘78% PARENTS NOT WILLING TO SEND KIDS TO SCHOOLS TILL COVID-19 OVER’
The Unlock 5.0 guidelines allow schools in different states to reopen from 15 October depending on the state government’s decision, but as per a study by SP Robotics Works from last month named ‘Kids under Covid’, 78% parents are ready to skip a school year, but not ready to send their children to school during the Covid-19 pandemic. With a sudden transition to online learning and prolonged screen time with no outdoor play and limited social interaction, the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown on children’s mental and physical health remains dubious. To arrive at the insights of this survey, SP Robotic Works conducted a survey over the month of July and August among 3600 parents and an equal number of children in the age group of 7-17 years
ARMY JOBS: 191 SSC OFFICER POSTS VACANT, APPLY NOW
Indian Army has invited applications for SSC Officer posts. Candidates who are interested can apply at joinindianarmy.nic.in. The number of positions vacant positions is 191 posts. Candidates can apply till November 12, 2020. Unmarried male and unmarried female engineering graduates, final-year engineering students can apply. The course will start in April 2021 at Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Opening date of application is 14 October, 202, while closing date of application is 12 November 2020. Candidates will be put through two-stage selection procedure. Those who clear Stage-1 will go to Stage-2. Those who fail in Stage-1 will be returned on the same day.
JAMIA HAMDARD ADMISSIONS: REGISTRATION DATE EXTENDED
Jamia Hamdard has extended the last date to fill and submit the online admission form to 25 October. Earlier, the last date of application form 2020 submission was 20 September. Candidates who wish to take admissions to UG and PG courses offered by the university can fill the Jamia Hamdard application form 2020 till the new extended deadline. Candidates must note that they also have to upload their qualifying examination mark sheet while filling the application form. Students who have passed class 12th exam can apply for its UG courses while those having a bachelor’s degree can apply for its PG courses. Aspirants can apply for admission to the university online at jamiahamdard.edu. This year, the admission process has been delayed due to the ongoing pandemic situation. The admission form submission deadline was extended as there were many students who were seeking admissions in engineering and diploma courses but were not able to fill out the forms timely
EDUCATION MINISTER INAUGURATES NEW NIT ROURKELA BUILDING
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ inaugurated the newly built Golden Jubilee Building of NIT Rourkela, Odisha, on Tuesday through a virtual platform. Speaking at the occasion he said that NIT Rourkela is a premier institution of our country and has been producing the best brains for the country. The newly constructed NIT Rourkela building is a symbol of the varsity’s prestige. Pokhriyal said that institutions like NIT Rourkela have a very important role to play in the implementation of the New Educational Policies (NEP). The minister also added the building amplifies the glory of Rourkela city as it is one of the tallest buildings around. The magnificent structure is indeed metaphorically and geographically, ‘the heart of NIT Rourkela’, added Pokhriyal. The minister also highlighted that the vision of having this building will fulfill one of the essential mottos of the Institute to enhance efficiency in the administrative functioning and amalgamate technology with this process to make it more people-friendly.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE TIME OF A PANDEMIC
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned out to be the most significant disruptive event witnessed by this generation. From mainstreaming remote working, cutting global travel to a comprehensive digital shift, the outbreak has changed the way businesses are executed. This transformational effect is not momentary; it is significant and is here to stay.
One of the most notable elements of this transformation is the way organisations have been forced to embrace digital marketing to be able to survive the crisis. As traditional marketing strategies stand curtailed due to the pandemic, businesses have moved quickly to embrace digital marketing and transform the way they attract and engage customers and clients.
As most people still stay indoors, malls and roads stand deserted, there has been a shift to a space where businesses and customers interact less physically and more through the online route. Digital services providers will tell you how there has been a surge in organisations seeking to create new websites or update existing ones, creating elaborate social media campaigns and launching new e-commerce channels. Intelligent content creation and SEO are other elements that are receiving a fresh focus from companies. Truth be told, organisations that embrace this transformation quickly and more comprehensively are the ones that are more likely to survive as compared to those who are resistant to change.
Here are some more changing phases of entrepreneurship are adjusting the “new normal”:
THE AGE OF WEBINARS
As live conferences and face to face engagement activities take a backset, organizations are working out new ways to engage with customers. Webinars have emerged as a very popular way of achieving digital thought leadership and getting quality leads. At the same time, customer engagement is also taking place with these digital discussions. That’s why there is a sea of webinars everywhere to spread the message. Even when the crisis ebbs, people are likely to continue to conduct a part of their thought-leadership events through webinars as more and more people realize that they serve the same purpose at a fraction of the cost. Webinars that have now filled the gap of traditional conferences are likely to become a mainstream marketing strategy in the new normal.
INCREASED USAGE OF DATA ANALYTICS
In a digital age, data analytics has always been a valuable proposition. However, as organizations increase their digital presence, the importance of creating useful databases has only increased. With more people spending longer time on social media, their chances of seeing ads on such platforms or coming in touch with content marketing blogs are greater. This is why organisations now need to create valuable databases, analyse them and use this information intelligently to reach out to the target audience. Tracking pattern of consumer behavior, tracking online traffic patterns, analysing which content retains the customer, and getting a break up of which products are enticing what type of customers are essential elements of data analytics that organizations need to use more to boost their online sales.
CONTENT IS THE KING
Businesses must focus on expanding social media presence by creating intelligent and attractive content. With the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing, it becomes essential to engage consumers in subjects they might find interesting. However, it is important to understand that content distributed on social media should not be totally promotional in nature as it kills consumer interest. Your content must be knowledge and awareness-based. It must engage consumers emotionally through human interest stories rather than blatantly promoting your product.
The writer is founder & chairman, ICA Edu Skills.
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