Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty. Doubts are being raised on reopening of schools. There is no clarity if and when exams and evaluation would be completed. Will the schools reopen will all students in attendance or will schools be opened to different classes? Will there be social distancing in school transport? What would be the fate of students seeking admission abroad? These and many more questions are answered by school leaders.
The survey would cover all the regions of the country. Here is the third installment covering Punjab and nearby regions.
Frame standard procedure for reopening schools – Anirudh Gupta, CEO, DCM Group of Schools, Punjab
The need of the hour is to frame standard procedures for post lockdown. Can we allow all students to return to school at once? Would it be safe to continue with the same seating arrangement? Should the same number of students travel in the bus? Should schools consider of having a shift system to begin with? Should schools go back to traditional way of teaching from the beginning or consider a mixed approach by adopting online too? These are the questions that need to be addressed.
Engaging school leaders to frame standard procedures is essential for a smooth transition with help from UNESCO guidelines.
Are schools ready to start academic session? This is a question. Apprehensions from parents and all stakeholders need to be addressed. An advisory on the disposal of students, a quick reaction team and effective streamlining the academic structure post lockdown is a must.
The challenges are financial, logistic and academic. The march of coronavirus was sudden and has affected everyone. The challenge schools face is to pay salaries, keep the operational cost as revenue has been squeezed.
As far as logistics goes, it is a catch-22 situation. If the housekeeping staff do not come, it is a problem and if they do it is risky. Likewise, to keep the transport segment of the school in shape is also essential. Protecting the employees is a priority.
Academically, there is no clarity as the government too is in a state of uncertainty. When would the coronavirus abate is a billion-dollar question. Each state has its own policy and that adds to the confusion.
Like all schools, we too are engaging students through online platform. We are ensuring that all children get the right assignment and are providing resources to teachers.
We are also making masks and protection kits that are made in-house. Creation of a war room and monitoring all aspects every hour is going on.
PE equally important during Lockdown – Reekrit Serai, Managing Director, Satluj Group of Schools, Haryana & Punjab
These are trying times and the mental well-being of students is top priority. We started online classes and with it physical education videos. Children have never experienced such a situation and are vulnerable. We started the PE lessons at 8:30 for 30-minute duration. We believe it would go a long way in helping students to stay focussed.
On fee collection
The Haryana Government gave instructions to schools to collect monthly fee which is a welcome decision as it would help in keeping the system moving. Teachers would be paid and expect the Punjab and Jammu Governments also to issue orders.
On online teaching
It was a huge challenge to get the students on board. Initially kids wanted to interact with teachers but parents had concerns regarding privacy concerns using zoom app. After a lot of thought we decided to use skype and requested students.
The challenge now is to keep the students interested. Once the novelty wears off, they would not be interested.
Reopening schools, major challenge
It would take a couple of months before schools get back to a normal routine. Once the lockdown is lifted, schools would be, I assume to be the last sector to be allowed to function considering the large number of students.
There is a possibility of less attendance in the initial days and in some cases a month or two due to fear.
We are mulling to go with a mix of online and conventional teaching to begin with.
Recording lessons the best option – Vikram Seth, Director, Holy Heart Schools, Amritsar
Given the state of affairs, recording lessons and posting them on YouTube seems to be the best option and we at Holy Heart have been doing it with right earnest. Although there is a lot of hard work involved but we found it to be the best option.
With the internet not strong in India and students in remote locations finding it difficult to come online at an appointed hour, the recorded videos are handy. At times, parents are not ready and students complain of not having enough bandwidth.
We have realised that these videos can be a good repository and come handy anytime.
It would be great if the government could issue a directive and allow teaching staff to attend school, it would be helpful as videos could be made in a professional manner in a proper recording room. As of now, videos are being made inside houses.
Schools and cinema halls may be allowed to function only after all other sectors and that is something schools need to plan for. In China, the schools were the last to reopen.
Fee collection, a challenge – Karan Bajwa, Director, Shemrock Group of Schools, Mohali
No army can fight on an empty stomach, so goes the saying. Likewise, schools too cannot function if they do not pay the teachers, the bus drivers, the sanitary staff, gardeners and the watchman. With the coronavirus scare, the fee collection has come to a standstill and has affected the functioning of schools.
The Haryana Government recently issued orders to schools to collect monthly fee, if the same can be done by the Punjab government it would be good.
On the academic front, reaching out to parents, training teachers, convincing children to come online is a huge challenge. If covering the syllabus on time is a challenge, making students understand concepts is another. Just by dishing out online classes one cannot be sure that students learn.
It would take some time before schools start functioning like in the past. Strategies need to be made, extra classes need to be taken, the weaker lot and the ones who missed out on online classes need to be looked after. The challenges are many.
Network connectivity big challenge – Suchita Gupta, Principal, Kathua, J&K
While the lockdown has hit everyone in the country, the worst affected are the schools in the hinterland. With 2G in remote areas, dissemination of knowledge is a big challenge.
Teachers have been punching above their weight. Students do not have books and teachers are sending the text by taking photos and giving assignments. A majority of students are using Whattsapp.
With fee collection now on hold, keeping the morale of everyone is important. In these testing times, apart from the police and the medical personnel, teachers too are doing a wonderful job.
A thought has to be given to also the aftermath of lockdown. Schools need to think of social distancing and which classes to start first. Even if there is a slight delay till Grade 4, it can be managed.
Activity classes may need to be cut short and schools may rethink on working on Saturday. The Diwali as well as winter vacation may be cut short.
WhatsApp has become the primary medium – Bhupinder Gogia, Principal, Sat Paul Mittal School, Dugri, Ludhiana
This could be the right time to introspect and plan for the next five years. This lockdown has also brought out the dependence on technology and made several teachers realise how important it is. The students understand the language of technology; it is now up to the teachers to jump onto the tech bandwagon.
We are using WhatsApp to supply the study material and homework with student and parents. We are also using Microsoft suite to conduct virtual classroom, staff meeting and department meetings.
However, WhatsApp is the primary medium with parents and students.
Another concern is the conduct of co-curricular activities in the near future.
As virtual learning is at its pace, every parent and student is accessing study material through a smartphone. But in many cases issues prop up. Another problem is getting teachers on board. In addition, a teacher who does not know a PowerPoint presentation has been forced to go into power presentation teaching. The teachers are going through an enormous amount of pressure but we support our teachers with motivation, and encourage them to move ahead.
It’s fine if schools start from August – Sheenam Samuel, Principal, The Imperial School, Adampur, Jalandhar
In my opinion the next academic session could start in August or September. This would give ample time for both the management and students to get comfortable with academic planning.
Gap was always present
The academic sessions used to start from April onwards. Students used to attend for two months (April and May) & after that they had summer vacations for 40 to 45 days. Until September, teachers and the students were already taking time to understand or cope up with each other.
Lack of tech-savvy staff
At primary level, both teachers and students are not techno – friendly. Students of middle and higher classes as well face issues with poor connectivity of internet.
There were times when both parents and teachers discouraged students to stay away from the mobile phones/ laptops/ computer systems etc. But the current situation doesn’t leave many options.
Read the previous installments of the survey here: