Thursday, September 23, 2021

Be cautious

Editorial 2

Colleges have now reopened and off-line classes for higher secondary (Class 11 & 12) are set to begin from next Monday (August 2). Though the government has issued guidelines to be followed while resuming offline classes for students, it is unlikely to be followed in toto. In fact social distancing in colleges and schools is a huge challenge and enforcement of such measures is difficult. Besides majority of colleges and schools in our state are poorly ventilated and sans proper infrastructure. The government directive for resuming offline classes included one of the measures that students can sit almost 6 feet apart from each other. And in case of non-availability of such space, staggered schedule/shift timings and student rotation can be an option. But it is practically difficult to implement such guidelines given non-availability of space and other facilities. The teachers in most schools cannot implement the guidelines given the space crunch. The government guidelines also directed all teachers to get vaccinated, but as the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court had observed, “…we see nothing regarding the SOP to be followed by the students including their vaccination status or testing norms to be followed.” The Court had hoped that the state government keep these in mind and issue appropriate SOP before the colleges and schools reopen. But now that the colleges have reopened, authorities are likely to face many challenges in the days ahead. Because after nearly a yearlong closure last year and over 3 months this year, the mindset of students must have changed and made them sluggish! It would be a new experience and a big challenge for educators to cope up with. It will perhaps take at least more than a month to bring the derailed teaching-learning process back on track. Though there were many innovative steps taken by the government to keep the spirit of learning alive still it was not enough to compensate the deficiency caused by closing of schools. The initiative of online classes was quite appreciable but the bad impact of no schooling is visible in students. The addiction to mobile phones has badly affected the learners’ learning culture. Lack of in-person interaction also ruined the sense of accountability and hardworking. Students were free to attend or not attend classes. The technological drawbacks reversed the motivation thereby making the attempts a near failure. The memories of classroom transaction have evaporated. Students have become addicted to smart phones, watching movies, etc. It has changed the psychology of children. They may not be able to attend classes with the same enthusiasm they were used to. There will be more naughtiness and delinquency. Students may not come up to the teacher’s expectations. Similarly, there might be other issues like poor learning and concentration. So educators must be wise enough while dealing with such cases. But the first challenge for colleges and higher secondary schools should be to create a safe school environment where chances of getting infected by Covid are minimum. And now that colleges have reopened and schools for higher classes set to start in a week time, there are concerns that the government will also move to reopen high schools and lower classes as soon as possible. But here a degree of caution should accompany any government’s decision. What is happening at different public spaces, in terms of people gathering in huge crowds, may be explained by the intuitive behaviour of people to enjoy some normal time after having been caged in an abnormal situation. May be it can be excused to a degree. But the decisions taken by the government should not be affected by such mindset. Here the attitude should be guided by knowledge, wisdom, and responsibility. Though we all wish to see all children back to classes sooner than later, but it is time to put a sobering reality check on our desires. The decision should be taken keeping in mind all the risks that it entails. The warnings about a third wave are still in air, and experts keep emphasizing on the need to keep guard. Yes, education has suffered immensely but there was no choice with us than to compensate the loss, to whatever degree we could, by shifting to online mode. We might have to suffer more loss on this count but any haste to open all schools can further complicate things.