Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Govt, civic schools to find students gone off the grid

- Fareeha Iftikhar

NEW DELHI: With schools across the national capital gearing up to restart virtual classes after the summer break, officials of the Delhi government and civic schools said they have a major task at hand -- tracking missing students, and ensure they attend the semi-online classes.

Amid an unpreceden­ted surge in Covid-19 cases, the Delhi government had in April ordered schools in the Capital to close -three weeks earlier than planned -- for the summer vacation till June 9. While corporatio­n schools are reopening virtually from Thursday, the Delhi government is yet to announce dates for resumption of online classes.

Several principals of Delhi government schools said that they have not been able to trace some students since last March and fear that the number of such students might increase when they resume online classes. The majority of missing students, they said, are those who were promoted from primary schools run by the municipali­ties at the end of the last academic session and admitted to class 6. As per the official data, only 76% of the students transferre­d from civic schools last year could be traced.

“Around 40 of our students, most of them shifted from municipal schools, are still out of reach since last year. This year, another batch of students have been transferre­d to government schools in class 6. It will be even more challengin­g to focus on two such batches,” said Awadesh Kumar Jha, principal of Sarvodaya Co-ed School in Rohini.

Every year, around 100,000 students move from municipal schools, which offer education till class 5, to government ones in class 6. Due to the pandemic, the induction of such students happened online since last year, on the basis of names sent by municipal schools.

In February, HT had reported that over 166,000 students enrolled in government and municipal schools were untraceabl­e since the pandemic hit the Capital in March last year.

For instance, the principal of a government school in Yamuna Vihar said at least 30 students were missing since last year. “The situation is likely to worsen now since the second wave of the pandemic has hit more people both in terms of personal and financial losses. We do not know how many children will be in the condition to join online classes,” said the principal of a government school in Yamuna Vihar.

According to the latest data collected by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), at least 1,436 children lost either one or both their parents to Covid-19 in Delhi. Of them, 59 children lost both parents.

“At least 10 students in my school lost their parents. So many people have left for their home towns amid the lockdown in April. We have to track them all,” Jha added.

HT had last month reported that at least 800,000 migrant workers travelled from Delhi to their home states in the first four weeks of the second lockdown.

Schools run by the three civic bodies -- east, north, and south-also raised similar concerns. Vibha Singh, principal of an east municipal corporatio­n school in Gandhinaga­r, said 32 students at her school were untraceabl­e since last March.

“The number is likely to increase this year. Once the school reopens, we will start monitoring students on the basis of their online attendance and collection of worksheets from school,” she said.

Meanwhile, both the Delhi government and three civic bodies are planning to launch extensive programmes to track students soon. Shailendra Sharma, the principal advisor to Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia, said government schools will take steps to connect with children and understand their circumstan­ces before commencing teaching-learning activities. “Renewed efforts will be made to connect with students who will join Delhi government schools from municipal schools this year in class 6.

“Last year, we had difficulty tracing many students but our teachers proactivel­y reached out to them and managed to establish two-way communicat­ion with nearly 76% of them... This year, while we will make every effort to get the correct contact details of children coming from MCD schools, the engagement with those moving to class 7 will also be deepened,” he said. The Delhi government is likely to issue guidelines to its schools on how to reach out to students on Wednesday.

Officials of the three municipali­ties also said they will soon launch outreach programs to reconnect with students. Sujata Malik, additional director of north civic body’s education department, said, “We had started a survey to relocate and trace our students in April but the work had stopped following the second wave... It will be a challenge to trace those who are not in the city and don’t have access to mobile phones.”

Meanwhile, experts said that both the authoritie­s should rope in NGOS and civil society groups to track students. Sanjay Gupta, director of NGO Chetna (childhood enhancemen­t through training and action), said, “Besides extensive door-to-door drives, the authoritie­s need to involve NGOS, and district child protection units to trace these children. The government can also take the help of volunteers of the NSS... We cannot expect students to join online classes without understand­ing their circumstan­ces and providing required support first.”

 ?? PTI ?? A teacher takes an online class at a Delhi government school in July last year.
New Delhi
PTI A teacher takes an online class at a Delhi government school in July last year. New Delhi

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