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Open air schooling is the best alternative available

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By: Gh Hassan Bhat

The outbreak of covid-19 has affected every sphere of life and has exposed the fragility of administrative setup in the world creating a sense of helplessness, despair fear of the virus among the masses. Among the sectors that are hit badly is the Education sector which has seen about 830 million learners out of schools for nearly two full academic sessions.  While e-learning and other internet oriented programmes have been introduced by the respective administrations, the concept of community schooling or open air schooling seems to be the best possible solution among the given choices. The concept is particularly relevant in places like Jammu and Kashmir where a large chunk of population has either limited or no access to internet or smart devices.

Community schooling provides solace to the lower income sections and others who live on the margins and do not have the advantage of possessing smart phones or computers. Those who cannot afford E-learning gadgets due to digital divide and other reasons now have a fair chance of catching up with students of different parts of the country though the concept of open air schooling is however no substitute to the conventional schooling but appears to be substantially a powerful mechanism to sustain educational dynamics by involving teachers, volunteers, students and academicians etc to keep the process on.

Community schooling encourage community and students to participate in academics and non academic activities in a rejuvenating way to fulfill the dents created by educational gaps. It develops different skills and amplifies awareness essential for learning and planning of students besides, widening the outlook of students by exploring resources available locally.  As on date, this seems to be the best approach to tackle the menace of school dropouts and experts are of the view that by adopting community classes in local setting, students show much better response in learning process and learning outcomes. It is in fact three tier system teacher, community and student which make it a holistic process.

The role of Seasonal teachers, Rets etc is not to be undermined as they continue to impart education to their target audiences despite the fact that they sometimes lack the necessary resources and support bank while settling in difficult terrains and matching upto the pace of the nomads.  It takes hours to walk through dense forests to reach their students and the nomadic and other downtrodden communities are greatly sensitized who otherwise show little inclination towards conventional schooling.

Thus there is a need of pre-active and collective approach by every section of society to safeguard the interests of students at gross roots level by actively following the necessary guidelines and WHO Norms. It would also be decisive to augment the basic infrastructure especially to seasonal Bahak schools and other far flung institutions to see the fruits of this hard work and that is what Community schools demand in present senerio.

The writer is a teacher and Resource Person, Education, zone Tangmarg, Baramulla. [email protected]

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