CHENNAI: S Kaushik, a Class 12 student in a private school in Chennai, is worried and scared. Scared that a fourth wave of Covid might lead to a lockdown, though cases are reducing. And worried that it’d lead to another round online classes, which he claims do not benefit him enough to get ready for college.
Kaushik is not an isolated case. Lack of network coverage, bandwidth and a mid-range smartphone have hit almost all students in government and government-aided schools, especially among rural and suburban areas. The inaccessibility to uninterrupted online classes in the last 2 years and the challenges arising thereof among students prompted the School Education Department to stick to conducting physical classes on a rotational basis, even if Covid cases further increase.
Additionally, the State Health Department is also keen on completing Covid vaccination for all students. Authorities have also instructed the management of all schools to strictly follow all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and safety measures while conducting physical classes.
Plan for this academic year
A senior official from the education department said that following requests and feedback from academicians and parents, authorities were confident about conducting physical classes unless there is another big wave of Covid.
“When schools were reopened after two years, we assessed students, especially those studying in State-run schools. We found that over 80% of students from classes 1 to 12 did not have enough qualifications to get promoted to a higher class,” he averred.
The official also pointed out that over 1.8 lakh students from classes 1 to 12 had dropped out of school during the pandemic. “Conducting physical classes was the only way to prevent dropouts,” he pointed out.
The department has drawn up detailed plans to conduct physical classes based on students’ strength in schools, added the official. “Similarly, the government will also ensure that every school student would get the second dose of Covid vaccination,” he stated.
Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System-Tamil Nadu, opined that it would be impossible for teachers to asses handwriting skills of students from classes 1 to 5, if classes are conducted online.
“On what basis would a teacher be able to decipher a student’s bad handwriting from a good one? Online sessions cannot supplement physical classes especially at the primary level. And even for higher standards, it can only be an additional source,” explained Babu.
KR Nandakumar, general secretary, TN Nursery, Matriculation, and CBSE Schools Association, said that online classes at most private schools in the middle level were not successful as kids had low attention span while studying from home.
“Students in the science stream needed practical classes, as lab works could not be done online. So, the management of private schools were adopting all safety measures,” he added. “As of now, the possibility of a fourth wave is miniscule. It’s better for physical classes to continue in schools.”
Parents prefer physical classes
S Arumainathan, president, TN Parents-Teachers Welfare Association, said parents were keen on sending their wards to the schools for physical classes, irrespective of the grade they were studying in. “Most parents of children in a government schoolare labourers. They don’t know how to teach their children and work from home was not an option for them,” he added.
S Jamuna, a Class 12 student from a government school near Pallavaram, said “I was in Class 10 when online classes were announced. Now, I’m in class 12 and I find it hard to understand the subjects,” he rued. “Clearing doubts from teachers and classmates, doing homework and taking small tests regularly would have helped me prepare for Class 12. But these are possible only in physical classes.”