Updated: Oct 18
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): We have received guidelines from the district according to which work is being done in schools. The schools have been sanitised, and all teachers and staff members have been tested for COVID-19. Along with this, we are also doing thermal screenings of teachers and students everyday. It is mandatory for everyone to wear masks and use sanitisers.
Schools where enrollment is less are being run at full capacity in a single shift. But where enrollment is high, schools are being run in two shifts. We are not conducting any programmes which can cause crowding in school premises.
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: The school has been given all the grants which it receives every year as well as funds for school uniforms. The children are being given ration and biscuits in lieu of mid-day meals. No separate funds have been given for the sanitisers and masks.
There has not been much problem in the operation of schools, but schools with high enrollments do pose some difficulty in doing all this, as the schools run in two shifts.
Q. Has there been any change in the enrollment numbers of students?
BEO: Yes, the enrollment of our schools has increased. Assistance provided by government schools, online studies, and ration given to children during school closure, are all important factors for the same. The biggest factor, though, is that there is no school fee. During the COVID-19 lockdown, private schools had charged fees to students which many parents were not able to pay due to loss of jobs. We received instructions to enrol all students who approach us, and that is the reason our enrolments have increased a lot.
Q. Have you noticed any difference in learning levels? If yes, what measures are being taken to cover the deficit?
BEO: Yes, there is a lot of difference in the children. We can see that the child who had taken admission in Class 1 is now in Class 3 but does not know how to read and write properly.
We are seeing these differences in learning levels in school visits as well as in bridge course tests. Along with this, DIET [district-level] also conducted an educational survey.
Our teachers are working hard to bridge this gap. Teaching-learning Material [materials used for teaching] is being used, children are given revisions and are being taught from the level at which they are currently. We are seeing gradual improvement in the children, but schools should not be closed now and run till March. But we do not know what will happen in the future.
Q. Have the teachers been provided with any training related to learning?
BEO: Along with the DIET training, we have also trained the teachers for two hours every week for two days in our Block. We are conducting this training through Zoom sessions and are working on all subjects. Right now, the training is going well and we are also seeing positive results.
Q. How has your work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
BEO: There is not much change in our work, but work related to COVID-19 has increased a bit. When we go to school for visits, we need to ensure that the guidelines given by the department are being followed. Other than that, if any teacher or child tests positive for COVID-19, then we have to visit and analyse the circumstances there to decide if the school has to be closed, how the rest of the students and teachers will be tested, etc.
Also, we need to pass on the instructions and guidelines we receive from the district to the schools through the Cluster Resource Centre Coordinator. We have to train the teachers of the block for 2 days a week as well.
This interview was conducted with a Block Education Officer in Maharashtra in Hindi on 7 January 2022, and has been translated.