COVID-19 fallout: demand for seats in govt. schools

Financial distress of parents and the ‘success’ of ongoing Vidyagama scheme are being cited as reasons

In Chamarajnagar, one of the most backward districts in the State, children from private schools are shifting to government schools. One of the reasons cited was the financial distress being faced by their parents over COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty in paying the fee.

As many as 530 children, mostly from the rural areas of the district, who had been pursuing their education in various private unaided schools, have taken admissions in the government schools in their villages or closer to the villages. This number is expected to rise with the admissions being continued this entire month.

Deputy Director of Public Instruction Jaware Gowda told The Hindu that 500-plus children had taken admissions in the government schools, migrating from the private schools. These children used to travel earlier from their villages to access education in private institutions located in urban and semi-urban areas.

With many parents not in a position to afford fees or procure digital gadgets for online education that is being conducted by the private schools, they are shifting their children to the government schools whose teachers have now taken classroom teaching to their doorsteps with schools shut over the pandemic.

Despite unlocking restrictions, the daily wage earners, migrant and farm workers are hit hard by the pandemic-induced lockdown. The shutdown has affected their earnings.

Another reason for students migrating to government schools was the ‘Vidyagama’ programme, which ensures continuity of education in the times of COVID-19. As there has been no classroom teaching with uncertainty in the reopening of schools, the government launched the programme where the teachers from the respective schools visit the students at their doorsteps so that the continuity of schooling is not lost.

“Those with digital gadgets get online teaching aids. But those who cannot afford smartphones, laptops or desktops get support at their doorsteps with the teachers helping the children to bridge the gap caused by lack of classroom teaching,” said Mr. Gowda.

Importantly, the ongoing efforts are being appreciated by the local community that is supporting the department in realising the objectives of ‘Vidyagama.’ The community is providing space in the villages for the teachers to engage the children uninterruptedly.

In Mysuru too, students are shifting to government schools from private schools and the authorities are hoping for further increase in the admissions.

“We are collating the numbers from various taluks and the response is overwhelming. We are not insisting on the transfer certificates. Parents can bring their ward and take admission to the next class. The responsibility of getting the TC lies with us and the BEOs will get it done. Parents need not have to bother,” said Mysuru DDPI Panduranga.

He told The Hindu that migration to government schools is predominantly in rural areas as many parents are not able to afford gadgets for online education or students are not finding online education convenient the way it’s being conducted. Another issue has been the fees, especially with the parents whose economic condition had been hit by the pandemic. They have realized the worth of the government schools post-COVID with free access to various facilities that ensures continuity of learning in the way appropriate to the kids, he explained.

Moreover, there is no bar on students of any school or taluk availing the benefits of Vidyagama. Any child can make use of the facility irrespective of its native place. Importantly, parents are also satisfied with the way the programme has been chalked out with teachers accessible to them for updating their children’s growth and performance.

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