Updated: May 6
Q. What steps have been taken by the government to maintain COVID-19 appropriate behaviour in the schools of your Block?
Block Education Officer (BEO): The government had already given all the guidelines in this regard as the schools were reopening. The major ones were by the Education Department and the Health Department in November. For example, only one child can sit on a bench; all students should be temperature checked everyday; COVID-19 tests for teachers are mandatory; the use of masks and sanitisers is necessary; and the schools whose enrollment is high have to work in two shifts.
Q. What kind of funds or infrastructure has been provided to the schools in your Block for efficient functioning? Are schools facing any difficulties in implementing COVID-19 protocols?
BEO: Schools have been provided with the annual grant that they get every year, but apart from this, no separate funds have been given for the sanitisation of schools or to buy resources that the school needs to fulfill COVID-19 guidelines.
Most of the schools have received some resources from the Panchayat. The schools in rural areas are not facing operational problems, unlike schools in urban areas which are running in two shifts.
Similarly, urban schools are facing some difficulty because of running at 50 per cent capacity with alternate halves of enrolled students coming on alternate days. Also, schools who have a large number of students and have multiple sections for each class are also facing this problem.
Q. Has there been any change in the enrollment numbers of students?
BEO: Yes, there is a significant change in the enrollment. The number of children has increased more in the rural area than in the urban area. We have given instructions to all the schools that, if any child arrives for enrollment, they should be enrolled and their studies started along with the rest of the children and in the same mode, whether it be online or offline. We were not given any specific guidelines in this regard from the government.
Q. Have you noticed any difference in learning levels? If yes, what measures are being taken to cover the deficit?
BEO: After the school reopenings, there is a visible difference in the learning levels of the children; they are not as adept as they were before. The UDISE survey has also given us the same information, that the learning levels of students are low, and we are trying our best to address the same.
As they came back to school after 2 years, we initially used games and other other activities to familiarise them with the school environment. After that, we slowly moved towards studies with a focus on equipping them with foundational skills and subject knowledge they are lacking on irrespective of the class they are enrolled in. Bridge courses were run.
Q. Have the teachers been provided with any training related to learning?
BEO: Yes, a two-day training workshop had been given. We also organised training at our level wherein for three hours every day for a week, teachers were provided information on how to deal with the children, as well as how to teach Marathi, English and Mathematics.
Q. How has your work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
BEO: There have been changes in my work. Earlier, when the students were being taught online, I had to monitor how the teachers were teaching, along with this some teachers were also guided to work in vaccination camps as well as in filling beneficiary information online. Now, I have to monitor if and how the schools are following the COVID-19 guidelines given by the government. Along with this we have asked the schools to keep information with respect to COVID-19 and students, which is reviewed every week.
This interview was conducted with a Block Education Officer in Satara, Maharashtra in Hindi on 27 December 2021, and has been translated.