Bengal’s new normal: Covid-era open-air ‘neighborhood’ schools set to begin | Kolkata

CALCULATED: The West Bengal government will launch so-called open-air “neighborhood schools” from today to educate students in pre-primary and primary grades.

Schools (grades 8-12), colleges and universities have already reopened from February 3. “Paray shikshalay” or neighborhood schools will accommodate students up to class 7.

A senior state education department official said more than six million children studying in pre-primary and primary grades will benefit. More than 184,000 teachers, 21,000 para-teachers and 38,000 sahayaks will attend classes in the district.

“Classes would take place outdoors. Some schools have decided to hold the paray shikshalay classes in their compound,” the officer said.

“Pupils in the pre-primary and primary classes have been out of school for almost two years. Even though online classes are going on, it affects children negatively. Therefore, this project was started in which teachers would conduct outdoor classes,” said Bratya Basu, Minister of Education in the state.

It comes at a time when the daily tally of Covid-19 cases has seen a steep decline, from around 24,000 cases a day to less than a thousand over the past two to three weeks. On Sunday, 835 new cases were reported in West Bengal.

The Mamata Banerjee administration in West Bengal had closed schools for the first time in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They reopened in February 2021 with grades 9 to 12 but had to be closed soon due to the West Bengal Assembly elections and the second wave of Covid-19 which hit afterwards. Classes 9-12 resumed in November 2021 but had to be closed again from January 3, 2022 due to the third surge.

Even though schools (8-12) and colleges reopened from February 3, classes hardly took place due to Saraswati Puja celebrations. Regular classes are expected to resume from Monday.

The decision to open community schools, however, came under heavy criticism from some of the guardians who demanded that the government reopen the schools as soon as possible.

“Community schools or neighborhood schools cannot be the alternative to the conventional school education system. This is for public schools. What about students studying in private schools? said a press release issued by the Supriyo Bhattacharya, Secretary of State for the United Guardian’s Forum, a few days ago.


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