Government schools can take a lead if society owns them

While the educational institutions continue to remain closed for more than a month in Jammu and Kashmir, the government school teachers have played a pivotal role in keeping the studies going on despite facing odds amid the slow speed of internet and other confrontation in the prevailing situation.

The educational institutions were closed in mid-March post imposition of lockdown announced by the government of India to contain spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread.

The closure of the schools in J&K came up as a major challenge for the school education department with regard to the continuity of the studies of students particularly in government schools.

The institutions were closed at a time when the school education department was working out modalities to implement its newly framed academic calendar after the schools reopened in last week of February this year post two moth long winter vacations.

The decision, which came after the threat of COPVID-19 spread across globe, was so abrupt and caught everybody off-guard. But it did not deter the government school teachers to continue working for the betterment of school children who remained confined to their homes amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

But the government took up an initiative to disseminate the education through online mode using different digital platforms. The exercise was not a cake walk keeping in view the prevailing situation here.

The government school teachers prepared e-content, distributed curriculum based home assignments to lacs of children at their door steps. The department uploaded e-content and video lectures prepared by teachers, on the official website of the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK). Similar initiatives were also taken in the Jammu division as well.

The teachers recruited under erstwhile centrally sponsored scheme- SSA, were at forefront to make the online mode of education a success. The same lot of teachers was earlier discriminated, stigmatized as untrained teachers having gaps in teaching learning experiences. At times these teachers were literally disowned by the department and have faced humiliation by denying them their right i.e., their monthly salary. But in times of crises, these teachers gave their best to render their duties to avoid academic losses of students. While acknowledging their efforts no one  can ignore the contribution of other teachers, masters and lecturers in making online mode of education a success.

In both, Kashmir and Jammu divisions, the teachers acted as foot soldiers to make every initiative taken by department a success. The teachers proved their worth and existence in the department by working day in and day out for the benefit of students enrolled in government schools.

Not only the curriculum but the teachers came up with some innovative ideas to keep the school children engaged with some extracurricular activities while remaining at their homes.

Amid the pandemic situation, the hard work and dedication of teachers proved that the government schools can be at par with private schools provided the teaching community takes its job seriously. Till this time, the private schools had only one thing to sell which is the online mode of education but the government schools now are not far behind in this.

Despite flaws in policy making at higher level and deficiencies in the system, the government-run schools started online classes for the children and reached out to lakhs of children across J&K. It was indeed an achievement for the department as it somehow succeeded in keeping the classes going on, though virtually. The positivity and the willingness of the government school teachers for participating in all these initiatives is worth appreciating.

The teachers are putting all their efforts to reach out to the school children by using their YouTube channels or sending video lectures to the students through WhatApp.

While praising government school teachers, I don’t undermine the work done by private school teachers who have equally contributed in saving the academic losses of the students amid the closure of schools. But, 90 percent of the private schools have made their standards so high that they provide admission to the kids after assessing the qualification of their parents and only provide admission to the refined lot. Any parent who wants to enroll his kid in private school has to refine his ward before joining the school while as in case of government schools, it is the teacher who has to invest in the child, not the parent.

Coming back to the government schools, it is heartening to see that the department with the help of the concerned teachers has prepared e-content for students of all classes up to 12th which is available on DSEK website and websites of some schools as well.

The way government school teachers played their role in this situation, it has given a recognition to the teaching community as well as the government-run schools. The only thing which is missing is the lack of ownership and sense of belonging in the society towards these schools. I hope good sense prevails and these schools get ownership of society to make the government education sector more vibrant.