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Students Start Classrooms on Streets, Demand Reopening of Schools and Colleges

In West Bengal, hundreds of classes are now being held on the streets, as students and teachers register their protest against the state government’s refusal to reopen schools.
Students Start Classrooms on Streets, Demand Reopening of Schools and Colleges

Kolkata: In response to the state government’s apathy towards discussions about reopening schools and colleges, students of Jadavpur University organised open classrooms on the streets,  urging the Trinamool Congress government in the state to immediately open up educational institutions. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier half-heartedly said that the educational institutions might open after the festive season, depending upon the Covid situation. Nandini Mukherjee, Professor of Computer Science at Jadavpur University took classes on the streets, which were attended by all students of her department. Following this, street classrooms were organised in front of several educational institutions, including Calcutta University. 

"The attendance in the online classes is abysmally low. While the government is saying that 5-6% of the students are turning up for online classes, in our experience, only 2-3% of the students are turning up in the online classes, especially from the schools that cater to poorer sections of the society," said Bikash Dey, a teacher of Mathematics at Gorkhara Bidyamandir High School of Sonarpur area in the South 24 Parganas district.

At 55-60%, the ratio of students attending online classes is much higher when it comes to schools like Delhi Public School and Garden High School in Kolkata, which are attended by students belonging to affluent families. Speaking to NewsClick, Bikash Dey said that the schools should open after taking all necessary precautions, and if needed, classes can be held on alternate days. He also added that a large number of students will drop out of schools if the classrooms are not reopened. “While malls and cinema halls and swimming pools are all open, why are the educational institutions still closed?” he asked.

Speaking to NewsClick, Professor Tina Barma of Bidhannagar Government College advocated for immediate reopening of colleges as most of the students, who are above 18 years of age, can be vaccinated and then attend classes. She added that online mode can be used as an option to address gaps where needed.

Anirban Mukherjee, an undergraduate student of Physics at DA college, Garia, is unsure about how the marks they received during the online classes will be looked at when they try to move to the workforce. According to Sampurna Bhattacharya, the online mode of teaching and lack of interaction with their peers are also affecting the young school kids.

Srijan Bhattacharya, West Bengal State Secretary of Students’ Federation of India, said that online education, or even blended mode of education cannot replace classroom teaching, and the agenda of online education being aggressively pursued by the Central Government is corroborated in Bengal by the state government, while on the other hand Mamata Banerjee government claims to be against the BJP government at the Centre.

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