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This Teachers’ Day, we witness how social media overflowed with posts, old pictures, and reminiscences on the future-makers of the society, the teachers–and rightfully so, for what better opportunity to remember and celebrate these very important parts of our lives?
However, while teachers and professors are undoubtedly the media that shape the future generations, something else that plays an almost equal role in that process is the ambiance, the atmosphere, and the setting of this learning. Yes, I mean the school and college campuses, which impact a child’s progress and cognition from a very young age and continue to affect them as they grow into young adults going to universities. Classrooms encourage more than just textual understanding; they nurture and groom a child’s social behavior. As they grow older, they learn from not just their teachers, but from fellow peers and discussions outside classrooms.
Since the latter half of March 2020, these campuses have remained closed for over a year now, with no news of reopening soon. Online education has replaced physical classes, and the phone or laptop screens have become the new classroom. Most of the time, the students keep their videos turned off, and miss out on the peer discussions, and the conversations, that shape their worldview. Science students end up never visiting laboratories, students finish assignments and examinations without ever laying their feet inside libraries.
The problem runs deeper. In a country like India, where a large majority of the people live below the Poverty Line, we cannot expect multiple devices with internet from every family or unlimited network connectivity. This has led to a massive rise in the number of dropouts. That, combined with the faltering economy, has led to a huge rise in the number of underaged laborers and child marriages. Girl children are dropping out and are being married off, while boy children are being made to earn money for their families from a very young age.
The campuses were shut from before the nationwide lockdown for “only fifteen days.” However, now that bars, restaurants, and malls are getting reopened, a pertinent question keeps probing our minds–what about the schools and colleges? Why is the government not concerned about the countless students who are departing from the fields of education for the lack of money?
Not to brew conspiracy theories, but we also need to question: Who benefits if the students are stuck at home? Who benefits if education becomes an ‘apolitical’ space, leaving no grounds for questioning or dissent? As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Who is the most afraid of this weapon?