“Teachers are the unsung corona warriors”

Shalini Arora needs no introduction. This tech-savvy teacher has won several awards in the field of education. She, at present, is the Principal of Veda Vyasa DAV Public School in New Delhi.

The Peeper Times spoke to her to understand how she has managed to overcome the challenges facing the education sector today – be it schools closure, online education, teacher training or the ongoing war of words between schools and parents over fees.

No school no fees row

The directorate has given clear guidelines that schools can charge only tuition fee. Parents can see how much hard work teachers are putting in. In our school, most of our parents (around 80%) are paying fees, 2-3% parents have genuine problems and we are looking into their cases. But there are some parents who are not paying, and that’s what leads to problems. If all parents pay the fees on time, then, schools can also pay salaries to their staff on time. All those schools where the percentage of parents not paying the fees is high, they are facing a real problem.

One has to understand that schools need money to operate. Yes, schools are closed, but maintaining the school infrastructure incurs expenses. Also, we have expenses like property tax, water bills, electricity bills (although reduced nowadays), and other expenses, besides having to give salaries to our staff. Our teachers are teaching online, providing services, working hard. We have to pay them for these services. How can you expect them to keep giving services and not get anything in return? How can one suggest, ‘No school, no fees?’ Isn’t school going online? The income of schools has gone down drastically; but the expenses remain more or less the same. So, that’s the problem that most schools are facing, especially the budget schools.

How should parents and schools sort out this issue, if they still haven’t?

The aim of both schools and parents is one – the welfare of children. Schools are making sincere efforts to provide holistic development to children even in these tough times. It’s not just academics that we are focussing on. There’s yoga, dramatics, theatre, craft – there’s so much going on. Competitions are being held. We are trying to provide them the same environment that they would have got in the school, e.g, we celebrated Independence Day virtually. Then there was Grandparents’ Day. We try to celebrate all festivals – major or small with our children. There are also inter-school competitions. In fact, as a principal, I can tell you that we are organising more activities this year than we would have done had we been going to school.

I think there is a need for both parents and schools to talk to each other and reach a mutual agreement.

These are trying times for everybody. I would love to see my children come out of this experience richer in terms of knowledge and growth. I wouldn’t want them to say,
“We wasted this year.”

 

Biggest challenge facing the education industry today

Initially, those teachers who were not tech-savvy faced tough time, but we talked and trained them, and today, we all are comfortable with technology. Now, we are also conducting exams online.

The challenge now is not technology, but reopening of schools in these testing times. At present, my parents, students and teachers are all satisfied with online classes. Thanks to education software like OLabs, we can also conduct lab experiments online. There are just 4-5 practicals, mainly of senior classes, which cannot be conducted online. For that, we need to open schools. But as of now, we all are happy with online arrangement. So, we are unlikely to reopen schools anytime soon. And whenever we decide to reopen, it will be done in parts.

How are you keeping students and teachers motivated?

For students, we organise motivational sessions. We also celebrate events and festivals online. Recently, we celebrated Teachers’ Day online, it was a two-hour lovely programme where students and alumni greeted their teachers. We also invite our celebrity ex-students to interact with our students.

From time to time, we organise events like seminars, entertainment programmes (weekly light-hearted banter, etc.) to keep our teachers motivated.

But yes, keeping everyone stimulated is getting challenging. Earlier, schools had timings, but now it is a 24-hour school for everybody, and all of us are trying to think new ideas of doing routine things differently and in more interesting way.

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Views regarding NEP

It’s very progressive. I think the emphasis on teacher education will give us more quality teachers. The policy is good and it should bring good results. NEP has been written beautifully but the real challenge is in its implementation.

Message to Educators

First, I would like to salute them. They are the unsung corona warriors who have looked after their families, and done justice to both – their housework as well as their profession. Earlier, they were treading in uncharted waters, but with their determination and hardwork, they have taken to technology (online education) like a fish takes to water. It is really commendable.

Message for students

These are trying times for everybody. And we pray that we never have to see such times again. But these are not times to lose context of your basic moral values: your honesty and integrity. Also, this is the time where you are learning at your own pace. There are both synchronous and asynchronous learning going on, there’re very few distractions as you are not going out to meet friends, and the social pressure on you is also less. So, utilise this time by focussing more on your academics as well as personality development.

I would love to see my children come out of this experience richer in terms of knowledge and growth. I wouldn’t want them to say, “We wasted this year.” I would want them to say that this year was so good that they would love to have blended learning from next year. They should be that happy with this experience.

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