Frontlist Education News | Reopening schools is unthinkable for now, We can’t take risk: Manish Sisodia

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Delhi will not reopen its schools any time soon as the state government is not willing to take any risk with the health of children, state education minister and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has said. In an interview with Nidhi Sharma, Sisodia also spoke about why Delhi is opposing the University Grants Commission’s stance on examinations in the Supreme Court, and the steps being taken to trace 10-15% of students who have fallen off the radar of Delhi government’s education system during the lockdown.

On reopening of schools in Delhi
We cannot even think of reopening schools. We cannot take a risk with the health of our children. If we are testing 2,000 people, about 6% are positive. There are 4.4 million students in Delhi (including both private and government schools) and about 800,000 to one million college students. We cannot think about it (reopening of schools and colleges) for a few months.

 

On parameters to work out the timing of reopening
I haven’t given it a thought. But not any time soon.

 

On the Centre’s unlock guidelines, allowing reopening of schools
Even if the Ministry of Home Affairs issues guidelines allowing reopening of schools, Delhi would not reopen. We are even saying, do away with examinations. Promote the children, but don’t take a risk with their lives. They are going back to their homes and there are other family members, too. Learn from what happened in the US within two weeks of reopening of schools. (About 97,000 children tested positive for the novel coronavirus between July 16 and 30, according to media reports.)

 

On private schools charging full fee despite remaining closed
When lockdown was in force, we told the private schools to only charge tuition fee for two months and parents should not be harassed. If you see our records, we have not allowed any fee hike in the capital over the last five years. But private schools have come to us now and shown us balance sheets. They are unable to run their schools, and pay teaching and nonteaching staff with just tuition fee. We cannot ignore this. At the same time, we have told schools to be flexible and not expect all parents to pay the full amount.

 

On students missing education
Every week we are collating numbers on how many students are attending online classes and taking physical assignment sheets. As per our estimates, 85% of students are attending online classes—not just in Delhi but in Mumbai, Chhattisgarh and wherever their parents have migrated to. But there are 10% we are unable to trace. I am going to districts and trying to reach out. But it is a long process. Apart from this, there is a deficit of 30% of students who were supposed to enrol in our government schools in Class 6 after passing out of Class 5 in municipal schools.

On strategy to get students back in the system
We have suffered a major setback because of Covid-19, be it economic, social, or education sector. We are not claiming that there is no damage done. We are now trying to minimize that damage in education. Our teachers and our district teams are trying to go down to colonies and trace children who are not even available on their phone numbers.

On Delhi government’s opposition to UGC move to hold examinations
We are living in extraordinary times. We cannot employ an ordinary system for the evaluation of students at such times. This approach is impractical. We are not in favor of examinations. Why can’t you (UGC) have faith in your system and evaluate your students on their performance over the last two-and-a-half years?

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