Since March 2020, schools and colleges in West Bengal had not been functioning with optimal capacity. The phased reopening was on the way in 2021 when the second wave of COVID-19 hit.
After 22 months of online classes, the West Bengal government, under intense pressure from student organizations, announced that schools and colleges will reopen from 3rd February 2022, maintaining the COVID-appropriate protocols.
However, schools will operate full-time only for classes 8 to 12. For classes 5 to 8, Bannerjee announced that “Paraar Pathshala” (neighborhood schools) will be organized by the government.
What’s Been Said?
On 31st January, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, declared that schools, colleges, and Polytechnique institutes across West Bengal will reopen from 3rd February 2022. She observed that it was only done in the aftermath of COVID-19 cases decreasing in West Bengal. Night curfew was also relaxed to 11 PM in the night.
No final decisions on primary schools have been taken. “We will decide on reopening primary schools later,” said the CM while speaking on the subject.
“Paraar Pathshala”: A Viable Solution?
“Paraar Pathshala” translates directly to ‘neighborhood schools’ in Bengali. This initiative aims to shift the emphasis from schools to learning through neighborhood gatherings. Bannerjee has emphasized that it will be done in accordance with COVID-appropriate behavior.
“Classes for V to VII will be conducted through Paray Shikshalaya (school in the neighborhood) from 3rd February 2022,” said Bannerjee.
Despite having the best of intentions, this initiative is not likely to survive in the long term. While it aims to reduce the pressure on schools, neighborhood gatherings will increase the chances of community contraction. It has been observed that COVID-19 majorly spreads through contact in the community.
It is also very unlikely that the schools under centralized boards like the ICSE, CBSE, and West Bengal State Board will forego their syllabus in favor of neighborhood schools. A collection of students from different boards will make it difficult for the “Paraar Pathshala” to operate with impunity.
Also, a neighborhood center cannot hope to replicate the experience of a school. After almost two years of idleness, it is highly recommended that the children go back to school. Schools often form a part of the socio-cultural development of a child which will be severely hampered in this poorly planned simulation.
A Year Of Protests
Student organizations across the state have been protesting in favor of opening schools and colleges for the past year.
Protests were largely organized to make the government resume normal classes in schools and colleges and end the digital divide which has been imposed upon the student community in the pandemic forcing hundreds of students to drop out of schools.
The affordability of data packs has been directly linked to the availability of education thus creating a socio-economical gulf through the student community. The end of online classes hails the victory of the common student who cannot, will not, and should not have to spend his time and money on internet connections in order to pursue his education.
The SFI, the Student’s Federation Of India, a major left-wing student organization and a leading face in the protest throughout last year, hailed it as “a partial victory”, and not a complete one, as “….. physical classes for students from class 1 to 7 are yet to begin”. The organization is determined to continue its resistance until the schools are reopened for every student.
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This Post Is Tagged Under: ICSE board, CBSC board, West Bengal Government, Covid-19 Mamata Guidelines, State Government, West Bengal schools, Reopen Schools, Student Protests, Primary School, High School