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Parents, teachers concerned about school reopening amid Covid-19

As per a new survey, most parents want to continue with the online classes for their children and would prefer to review the situation once the coronavirus numbers start reducing.

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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.

Educationally Speaking

NEET COUNSELLING POSTPONED DUE TO TECHNICAL GLITCH

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 NEET counselling 2020 has been postponed till 28 October. The Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) has postponed the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET 2020) counselling process due to some technical reasons. “The NEET UG Counselling 2020 has been postponed till tomorrow i.e. 28th October 2020 due to some technical reasons. All candidates are advised to stay in touch with the MCC website for the latest updates,” said the official website on Tuesday. 

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LAUREL FOR SHIV NADAR UNIVERSITY FACULTY MEMBER

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Shiv Nadar University Associate Professor and Head, Department of Chemistry, Parthapratim Munshi, has joined the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), UK, as a Fellow. Munshi was invited by the world’s leading chemistry community through its ‘Leaders in the Field’ scheme—which identifies outstanding individuals in the chemical sciences—for his significant contributions in the field, particularly in the area of Organic multifunctional materials and several other notable research. Shiv Nadar University’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Rupamanjari Ghosh, said: “Parthapratim is the first member of SNU’s Chemistry Department to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. It is truly a special recognition of his outstanding work, of which all of us at SNU are extremely proud.”

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JAMIA MILLIA ISLAMIA OBSERVES VIGILANCE AWARENESS WEEK

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With corruption being one of the major obstacles to economic, political and social progress of our country, employees of Jamia Millia Islamia took pledge to build a corruption-free India, while following the social distancing norms due to Covid-19. The pledge was administered by the Registrar A.P. Siddiqui. The pledge was administered as part of Vigilance Awareness Week being observed from 27 October to 2 November 2020, to emphasise the importance of integrity in public life and show its commitment to implement the policy of ‘Zero Tolerance against Corruption’. The theme of the vigilance awareness week is ‘Vigilant India, Prosperous India.

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IIT GUWAHATI DEVELOPS LOW-COST ANTI-AGING COMPOUNDS

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 IIT Guwahati researchers have developed a low-cost membrane technology to produce psychoactive drugs and anti-aging compounds from wide range of agricultural resources like camellia sinensis, citrus fruits and peels especially orange peels, berries, ginkgo biloba, parsley, pulses, tea, sea buckthorn and onions. The technology was patented and developed by Prof Mihir Kumar Purkait, Head, Centre for the Environment, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering along with his MTech student V.L. Dhadge. This process doesn’t require any organic solvents as used commercially in the industry and so, can cut down the production cost and price drastically. Because of medicinal applications, anti-aging compounds have gained popularity as ingredients in pharmaceutical industry. These are also found in smaller amount in bamboo leaves, grapes, apples, and other natural sources.

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KEJRIWAL, SISODIA INTERACT WITH NEET-JEE STUDENTS

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia interacted with students of the Delhi government schools, who have performed outstandingly well in the NEET-JEE. Lauding students for their commendable performance, Kejriwal said that the students who have gotten into IITs and have secured top ranks in NEET-JEE must become a role model for the entire government education system. Sisodia said that ‘Shikshit Rashtra, Samarth Rashtra’ is the dream of the Delhi government, and said that all passing students must take the responsibility of guiding their juniors about NEET-JEE. This week, the Chief Minister had announced that around 569 students from schools run by the Delhi government qualified for the exam, out of which 379 are girls. “Around 443 students from government schools cleared JEE Mains and 53 have qualified for JEE Advanced and have secured a seat in IITs,” according to a release from Chief Minister’s Office.

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DEFYING ALL ODDS, A WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR SCRIPTS SUCCESS STORY

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A large number of women entrepreneurs in India are writing their success stories with full warmth, passion, and zeal. One such story is that of Sonu Bala from Haryana’s Rewari district.

Lecturer by profession, it was not easy for her to start her own centre, as her husband was against the idea. Luckily, she was shortlisted to open a Common Service Centre (CSC) and that changed everything. After getting shortlisted, her husband also agreed and now he is her backbone.

Sonu Bala runs a CSC centre in Gurawara village in Haryana’s Rewari district. The centre caters to almost five to six neighbouring villages.

“Starting from a small lab in Gram Sachivalaya, I have come a long way and now I have constructed my own CSC building. I purchased the land and built a multi-story building worth Rs 25 lakh for our CSC centre. Rural BPO centre has been opened up in my CSC which was inaugurated by Union Minister of Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad last year, said Sonu.

She started her career as a Computer Science lecturer in a government college in Rewari which was 25 km away from her village. She left the job after five years for her new venture. Sonu says her elder brother encouraged her when she said that she wanted to study.

Sonu Bala is popularly known as the ‘CSC Role Model’. Sonu Bala said that she could achieve this because of her family’s support. “As I did not want to do a private job, I thought I should start a business of my own and the idea of CSC came to me. A woman should not be dependent on her father or husband. She should be given a chance to work according to her talent and interest,” Sonu said.

Her mother wanted Sonu to work in the government sector but destiny has written something else for her.

Sonu is the most educated Village Level Entrepreneur having degrees of MCA, M.Phil (Computer Science), and M.Ed. Her aim was to provide ICT-enabled solutions to the people in the village so that they don’t have to travel far to the cities. She started her CSC centre in 2015 by providing Aadhaar cards only, but gradually her centre started providing all the services to the people of the villages.

“For people in rural areas, it is not easy to travel to the city and wait for long hours in the queue to get their certificates done. Now with the CSCs, they don’t have to go to the city,” adds Sonu.

In 2018, she distributed pension enrollments worth Rs 1.17 lakh through DigiPay to senior citizens, widows, and persons with disabilities.

“In 2015, when I started my CSC, I had only 3 personal computers and now I own more than 20 computers.”, says Sonu Bala. With CSC, her financial condition has improved a lot and her income has increased four-folds.

Sonu says that everyone calls her ‘Aadhaar wali Madam Ji’ and ‘Pension wali Madam Ji’ in the village. “Through CSC, I have earned huge respect and trust from the villagers and nothing matters above this, not even money. Serving the people and society gives me inner satisfaction,” she says.

According to Sonu, when she opened her CSC centre she faced a lot of problems initially and she had even given a bribe to get her electricity meter fixed and now she is in a position that she can easily help people in getting all their problems fixed. She says Dr Dinesh Tyagi, CEO of CSC SPV Pvt Ltd, is my guru and also a source of inspiration for all the VLEs. India is now a digital literate country, she says.

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