Not all of us want online classes, say private school teachers in TN

Online classes create a sense of discrimination among the students of the same class, diluting the essence of equal education for all, say teachers.
The teachers explaining a concept to the students
The teachers explaining a concept to the students
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Parents and students are not the only groups of people opposing the decision to conduct online classes. Some private school teachers have also joined in to oppose the move to conduct classes online. The online classes put the mental and physical health of students and teachers at risk, they say.

“Firstly, the health of the children gets affected because of the long hours of screen time in online classes. Hence the children get eye problems, headache and stress. Since the children are using headsets for long hours they are also getting problems in their ear drums,” says a teacher working in a private school in Chennai.

Educationists have been saying that the online classes are discriminatory towards government school students since most of the students cannot afford the equipment and other resources necessary, including uninterrupted broadband connections. However, teachers say that the online classes create discrimination even among the students of the same class in private schools.

Discriminates students of a class

The schools and classrooms that were meant to enforce equality, are now ending up pushing them to feel inferior if they cannot afford the same kinds of laptops or phones or headsets as their classmates, observe teachers.

“Parents and teachers are pushed to get laptops and phones. Families with two children and one gadget are finding it difficult to attend classes,” a Chennai-based teacher says.

Reiterating the same, Krishna Raj, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association says, “We brought the Samacheer Kalvi (Common Syllabus) for state board schools to ensure equality among the students. However, now some schools are conducting online classes and diluting the basic aim of equal education.”

Fear of cyber crime, cyberbullying

In a video Additional Director General of Police Ravi said, “There is a significant increase in cybercrime, kindly monitor the activity of your family and especially the online activities of your children. There is a great increase in cyberbullying and hacking attempts.”

Cases have been registered in Uttar Pradesh where two Class 12 students accessed the IDs of two girl students who were absent for online classes, and posted lewd messages, pornographic content and obscene comments against a teacher in Azamgarh of Uttar Pradesh. The access to obscene content has not just affected the two students but all the students attending the online classes.

Another teacher says, “We were skeptical about introducing Zoom classes in my school. We were afraid of the security issues since we are involving our students in this. However, we held discussions for a month and we could not find other apps so we had to end up using Zoom.”

A Chennai based teacher says that the solution for the zoom classes could be that they record videos of the classes and share YouTube links with students. The students can watch the videos under parental supervision, whenever parents have the time to sit down with them. By this the students will understand the classes and they can also be monitored. In families with two children, the flow of classes will not be disturbed. “I proposed this in my school but the administration preferred to take classes online. However, if there is a next review meeting I will propose this again,” she says.

Teachers facing pay cuts

Though many private schools have forced their students to pay the fee amount, they are using COVID-19 as a means to cut the salaries of teachers. Most schools have either laid off teachers or are paying them on a per-class basis. This has raised concerns among the public that private teachers promote online classes to make a living, but that is a baseless allegation, teachers we spoke to say.

“We are taking zoom classes to survive but we are against the classes. If the government gives loans for private schools to tide over the crisis, many teachers will not want to take zoom classes,” a teacher says. 

Krishna Raj is also pushing for the government to give loans to private institutions to tide over the crisis. Many private schools want to pay teachers, but are unable to since there is no money for rotation, he says. 

“Private schools function based on the money paid by the public, but the lockdown has hit people financially. Hence, the government should provide money and if they disburse the funds, even the schools that are conducting online classes to receive fees will stop collecting the fees and will abide by the government order,” he says.

‘Schools running as businesses’

Private schools are conducting classes to maintain their brand identity amid the pandemic, the private school association has alleged. “If a school has to run online classes, they need at least 100 students who own a gadget to facilitate online learning. If that’s the case, how can then many private schools run online courses? So I will say that these are schools that have a brand name or are CBSE schools. Those schools do this as a business without considering the health of the students,” Krishna Raj says.

He said that forcing students to pay fees and attend online classes can even lead to higher dropout ratios, he warns.

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