In praise of government school teachers
According to reports about Unlock 4.0, the Centre is unlikely to allow the reopening of schools. Covid-19 has had a catastrophic effect on the education systems across the world. According to a United Nations (UN) report, the closure of schools has affected 94% of the world’s student population and up to 99% students in low and lower-middle-income countries. The pandemic has exacerbated the existing challenge for India — of weak learning outcomes, especially in government and low-fee private schools.
There is, however, some good news. To ensure learning continuity during the pandemic, many government school teachers have come up with innovative and low-cost ideas. In Jharkhand, a teacher has put up loudspeakers so that children can learn sitting outside their homes. In rural Sikkim, a teacher visits her students one by one and takes impromptu classes. In Karnataka, many teachers are using community and open spaces for teaching. In Chhattisgarh, they are using loudspeakers to teach English through Halbi, the tribal language.
Government schools teachers — who are often asked to do several non-teaching jobs and don’t get adequate in-service training (leave alone online training) — are censured for being ineffective and apathetic. But Covid-19 shows that some are just the opposite; they can innovate. The efforts of these teachers should be acknowledged and shared among their peer groups, innovative steps fine-tuned, formalised, and scaled-up as both responses to sudden disruptions and as an alternative to online learning till the digital divide is truly bridged.