RAWALPINDI: With almost all private educational institutions shifting to online classes during the closure, public schools were unable to benefit from this option due to various reasons.
Now, when the government has extended the date of resuming classes from primary to grade 8 till Feb 1, students of these institutions, who had not taken classes for the last one year due to the pandemic, will have to wait for another two weeks to practically start studying.
Schools reopened on September after remaining closed since March 2020, but had to face closure once again in November when the number of Covid-19 cases surged. But, during this period, the Punjab government failed to make arrangements for online classes for students of public-sector institutions.
Private schools held online classes for their students, which they intend to continue till a final decision is reached on the reopening of all educational institutions.
However, in the absence of online classes, students from humble backgrounds started working to supplement the income of their families during the pandemic. Though teachers were called to schools, they did nothing to help the students academically.
Mohammad Anwar, a student of grade 8 in a government school in Raja Bazaar, said he was working with his father who was a vendor, and was selling woolen caps and masks to earn some money for his family.
l Govt institutions lack online system l Many households do not have internet
He said he managed to earn Rs800 to Rs1,000 per day and did self study in the evening.
Suhail Akhtar, a 6th grade student, from Dhoke Hassu, said: “As my school is closed, my father sent me to a mechanic to be his apprentice. Once classes resume, I will go back to school.”
He said there were no online classes arranged by his school, adding that his parents wanted him to learn a skill during this period.
Punjab Teachers Association President Raja Aurangzeb said due to the absence of an online system in government schools, students suffered a lot. However, he said teachers were ready to impart education to students if the government established any system for online classes.
He said teachers could not make such an arrangement on their own as most of them had no internet facility in their homes.
“Students in government schools belong to low income groups and their parents cannot afford arranging smart phones and internet for their children,” he said.
Mr Aurangzeb said the education department had informed teachers on Jan 11 that schools from nursery to 10th grade would open from Jan 18 but the government decided to open classes from 9-12 only.
On the other hand, District Education Authority Chief Executive Officer Bashir Ahmed said it was not possible to run online classes, acknowledging that no online classes were conducted since March 2020.
“There are two reasons that the government did not start online classes. One is parents of students enrolled in government schools are poor and cannot afford mobile phones and internet facility for their three or five children at a time. The second reason is that there is no system of online classes in government schools,” he said.
To make up for the loss of academic year of the students, Mr Ahmed said the government had reduced the syllabus and teachers covered it between September and November when schools were open.
However, he said, arrangements had been made for 9 and 10 grade students who will attend schools from Jan 18 and teachers would pay attention to their studies so that they are prepared to appear in the board examinations.
About the primary classes, he said most of the children were getting education from teachers who lived nearby, but others had missed a whole year and it would be difficult for teachers to cover their courses once the schools reopen.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2021