Parents in arms, once again

Guardians and experts say online education is less effective than classroom learning; they want schools to operate under strict covid protocols

With schools in the city and in some parts of Karnataka ordered to close again, just months after reopening, education experts and parents say the move is detrimental, not only to children’s development, but also to the livelihoods of many families.

At a press conference organized by members of the Karnataka Rajya Makkala Hakkugalu Samrakshana Samiti on Thursday, many parents voiced their concerns and demanded that the government restart offline lessons with strict Covid-19 precautions in place.

“The government decided to close the schools without taking into account our problems. There are families where both parents work in small industries or earn their living from daily bets. They have to be at work to make ends meet. Who will ensure that children left alone at home follow their lessons? How does the government plan to prevent these children from falling prey to cybercrime while browsing the internet unsupervised? ” request Manne Mohan, one of the parents present at the press conference.

Most small industries were shut down during the second lockdown period and started operating only a few months ago. Parents say just when life was getting back to normal with a stable income, this announcement brought her back to square one.

“During the last two weeks of school closures, we have gone to work every other day to make sure our children are not home alone. But the leaves are finished now. We have to go to work every day,” another parent lamented.

Samiti members say that if the policy is to close everything else first and then close schools, the government decides to close schools first, even if there is a small spike in cases.

Markets and malls are open, but schools are closed. There are no restrictions on children elsewhere, why close schools then?

– Ranjitha Ramkumar, a parent

“They should either start offline lessons soon or provide us with monetary benefits in case of loss of salary, because our remuneration depends on our daily performance. Markets and malls are open, but schools are closed. There are no restrictions on children elsewhere, why close schools then? The government should work on strict Covid-19 safety measures in schools and start classes soon, otherwise we will lose our livelihoods,” said Ranjitha Ramkumar, active parent of two school-going children.

Stakeholders not consulted

According to Shashi Kumar, Secretary General, Associated Management of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, the government made the decision without consulting stakeholders.

“This is a knee-jerk reaction from the government. No stakeholders, including us, were consulted. Previously there was a state task force in place to make such decisions with appropriate stakeholder consultation. However, the working group is ignored now. The government should have been more specific on the measures to be taken to fill the void resulting from this closure. Online courses may not be the solution for everyone. Many people do not have access to gazettes and Internet connectivity. All these issues should have been discussed and dealt with to achieve a uniform learning outcome,” Shashi Kumar said.

Martin E. Berry