THE COVID-19 emergency, with no one having any idea when this will end, has dealt a blow to national education, prompting the government to somehow arrange for an outreach programme of teaching delivered on television for primary and secondary students amidst criticism of the poor quality of teaching. Some private and non-government institutions offering primary, secondary, higher secondary and even tertiary education also stepped in, running classes on the internet amidst debates centring round the technical capability of the teachers to make online educational materials and a divide growing between students of rich families that can use the technology and poor families that struggle to make their ends meet especially during the emergency when many have lost jobs and have had their income reduced. With educational institutions having been closed since March 17, nine days after the first detection of the novel coronavirus infection on March 8, the Higher Secondary Certificate examinations, scheduled to begin on April 1, had to be postponed. While the national education scene has been through almost a chaos, the state of affairs in private and non-government educational institutions and the plight of teachers have started making headlines as they have fallen in economic hardship, with no salvage in sight.
Some private schools, kindergarten-type institutions as the government prefers to call them, have closed down as the authorities could no longer pay for the rent of the school building and teachers’ salary, with many others standing to follow suit, as New Age reported early July. There are 60,000 such institutions, with many offering up to higher secondary education keeping to the national curriculum. While school authorities cannot run their institutions for want of money, guardians are unable or unwilling to pay for the tuition for the months schools have remained closed. Some teachers are reported to have been into odd jobs to run their family. With school authorities having demanded full payment of tuition fees from guardians, guardians have gone on demonstration seeking a waiver of tuition fees by a half for the duration the institutions have remained closed. A few schools are reported to have reduced the fees but they are mostly top-notch schools that charge much higher for education. School authorities have also gone on demonstration seeking financial help, even in the form of soft loans, from the government to keep the institutions running. Both schools and guardians have sought intervention from people high up in national education, yet nothing has happened.
This is true that guardians are hard hit by the COVID-19 fallout as many have lost their job, many have had their income reduced and many have already spent their saving on meeting their daily needs. But it is also true that the teachers of such institutions are equally hit by the COVID-19 fallout, with many teachers reportedly having taken up odd jobs for survival. All this suggests a flawed policy of the government in the management of national education. Once the COVID-19 emergency is over, the government may face trouble in educating such a large number of students, or children who should go to school, if even a portion of private and non-government educational institution now close down. The government must, therefore, sit with all stakeholders and resolve the crisis.
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