Two government officers who came to our school for village animation programs were tested positive to covid-19. After that, our field staff were put on quarantine. However, in our projects area, the Covid cases as per our knowledge can be counted on the fingers. Earlier, the test for Covid was available only in the nearby city of Sambhal, but now, the government is making it available locally.
St. Anthony's School teachers have been collaborating well to make the online class successful. Each class teacher has been making the best effort to be in touch with their own students and to motivate them to learn on line. Around 90 % of our students from classes 9 to 12 are attending the online classes. However, the turn out of the smaller ones are only an average of 65 per cent. Some students who cannot get a smartphone to use in their families, are seeking the help from friends from the same villages or other relatives.
Schools have to stay closed !
Parents from different villages requested the teachers living in the same villages to spend few hours with their children and our teachers willingly accepted it. Many teachers have small groups of children coming to their houses for classes.
Teachers from Rahrai project took the initiatives to go to villages and have small groups of children gather and teach them.
Children from the Tahirpur Leprosy colony started classes at different shifts. Mr. Babu, who is in charge, is taking enough precaution to keep the protocol.
As many as 120 million students, 47.5% of total students in the country, attend private schools, making India's private school sector the third-largest school system in the world. Having the schools closed for almost 7 months, and no fees coming from the students, the schools have no income to pay the teachers. Teachers and their families depending on their salaries have been struggling for a square meal per day. Images of teachers selling vegetables on the roads, trying to find some manual work, etc. are viral on social media.
How to survive without fees ?
All the private schools have the same questions like us : « Getting absolutely no money from the Indian government, how to manage this crisis ? » We are doing much more effort than during a normal school time to keep children on line and our office stays open for any parent/student enquiries. Our teachers have established a good contact with the parents as well to facilitate the study of their children. In spite of it all, when it comes to the payment of fees, many don't respond to the phone calls !
Instructions were given by the government
The instructions given by the government and the supreme court are to stay closed, conduct online classes and get the fees from the students to pay the teachers. Parents who are not happy are appealing against this decision. Those who don't want to pay are even blocking their children from attending the online classes in fear of having to pay the fees. Though farmers in our project area are not affected as such by this pandemic, they have false hope that the government may wave off the fees. We try to convince the parents that we will follow the decision of the government whatever it might be. Some parents understand the need of the school and are collaborating. With their support, we managed so far to pay half the salary of our staff. Those who are more in need, we make sure that they are taken care of.
Even before the outbreak, India was struggling to keep children in school. Now, with the pandemic, children are forced to work into farms. If these children face delays in entering school, there may be an increase in the numbers of never-enrolled children, which could in turn push up child labor numbers.
Last year, we had 325 new students admitted in St.-Anthony's School Dugawar. This year, we had only 40 so far ! This means that the children who were supposed to start the school this academic year will lose one year.
This is the first summer that nobody from Belgium could make a visit to the projects, we have been working in collaboration via video conferences.