Published: 09th June 2020
Childhood will be lost: Advocacy group asks Kerala CM to stop online classes
The petition was filed by a Kochi-based advocacy group named Together We Can. The Kerala government schools had started online classes on June 1
The Kerala government's decision to reopen schools via online mediums and television was not flawless. There has been a lot of criticism lately about how the state is yet to bridge its digital divide. Now, an advocacy group from Kochi called Together We Can has written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stating how online education adversely affects a child's social and emotional wellbeing.
"Social reciprocity and emotional connection are much needed for every child. With their muted voices and larger classroom size in a virtual video call we are now encouraging children to emotionally and socially connect with people via screens," reads the petition, which has also been sent to the Social Justice Ministry and the Education Ministry. The point was made in context to preschools reopening online in the state. "What the pre-schoolers need most is not information, they learn most through play and exploration. No childhood would be lost if they are allowed to explore and interact with their own family members and play with whatever is available in each household," the petition read.
Recently, the Government of Karnataka had banned schools from conducting online classes for preschoolers and kindergarten students. "Conducting online classes for LKG and UKG students is just greed. The Education Department will take action against such schools," tweeted the state's education minister S Suresh Kumar. "We were supervising children's screen times until recently. We know a lot of cybersafety issues too. But now, we're gifting smartphones to children," says psychologist and special educator Seema Lal, who is one of the petitioners. She also suggested that the teachers could have encouraged children to read more books during this time.
It also talks about the unavailability of enough number of gadgets, in families with two or more children. "There are families with two or more children with not all children in the same school, not everyone having independent access to devices or the internet," reads the petition. "There is no need for live sessions. If the sessions are recorded, children can learn from these at their own pace," says Seema. The petition instead asks schools to use pre-recorded videos.
Another issue that the petition raises is about the child's attention span. "The objective is not to keep the children engaged or entertained. The objective is to educate. Attending live streaming sessions where it is a monologue by one instructor for more than even 10 minutes takes its toll on one's attention and concentration not just for adults but even more so for children. lt is exceptionally difficult to retain information shared when these sessions cannot be accessed later," it reads.
The petition also says that no stakeholders were consulted while setting up the guidelines, especially about educating children with disabilities. "We look forward to being included in any discussions on the same and actively join any government initiative to safeguard the social and emotional wellbeing of children. May no child be left behind" reads the petition.