By Kulbhushan Kain
The world went into a frenzy when the Covid Virus hit us. Rightfully so – because we knew so little about it. Many believed that, what the atomic and nuclear bombs could not do due to restraint and mutual dependence, Covid would do – it would wipe out the world.
The reaction was typical – preserve oneself! We were told the best way to preserve oneself was to stay indoors. Many of us were aware that, if there was a virus floating around in millions – walls would not be able to prevent it from entering our homes!!
The magical word on everyone’s lips was “Lockdown”! We entered the phase of lockdown and everyone was advised to remain isolated and practice “social distancing”. Industry came to a grinding halt, travel became restricted, hotels, restaurants shut down. Cities became ghost towns.
Schools were not spared. Being a school leader, I put out 4 or 5 video blogs urging people and students to stay at home.
Online classes took over. Webinars became the “in” thing! Teachers did not have to go to school, children did not have to go to school, Principals were relaxed because there were no discipline problems to handle and no troublesome PARENT Teacher Meetings!
Everyone was hailing the new educational system! We were finally looking at a virus that had “disrupted” the old brick and mortar schools which could accommodate only a particular number of students in a class! Eureka – now we had an educational system in which we did not need classrooms! A single teacher could now teach a class of hundreds!!
I have been an advocate of online classes from the year 2013. I have always felt that the internet would solve the problems of funds for building schools, reach the interiors, and have teachers who could teach a lot more children than what one could in a “real” school or a classroom, or those who were not privileged to get admitted to quality schooling. I advocated online schools to partly solve India’s problem of scarcity of schools and teachers. Besides, these schools would be affordable, would cut down on commuting time and, hence, traffic snarls and would save a lot of fuel! (It’s amazing how much fuel school buses guzzle).
But I never ever advocated that online virtual schools are better than brick and mortar schools and that they remain empty or be done away with.
Schools are more than about just learning Maths, Science, History, Fashion Technology … Schools are about the intangibles of classroom and peer learning. They are about learning to handle conflict, to cooperate, to take defeat, to appreciate trees and birds. Schools are about learning to obey rules, about showing kindness. Schools are about creating leaders of tomorrow. Schools are about children getting influenced by the way teachers walk, talk, dress, emote. Schools are places where a range of human emotions evolve and are on display (unlike smileys and emojis!). Read what a student wrote about his teacher, “When you thought I wasn’t looking, you fed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you gave me a sticker, and I knew that little things were special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you put your arm around me, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt–but that it’s all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you smiled, and it made me want to look that pretty too.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you cared, and I wanted to be everything I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking–I looked…and wanted to say thanks for all those things you did when you thought I wasn’t looking.”
Schools are not about going on a computer screen and talking to an audience you can see but not interact with face to face. I think brick and mortar schools are like watching a play in a theatre unlike watching a movie in a hall or on television. The feel is “real” for both the actors and the audience!
Classroom teaching cannot be replaced.
Open up schools for all classes. There are enough protocols that have been streamlined to take care of the virus. If need be – vaccinate the school going kids first. Create bio bubbles – you can do that in residential schools with ease. You can have “alternate days” in day schools if you can’t bring all of them together every day. And, of course, there are other options as well.
Let schools be normal schools. Let children be normal. Only then can we ultimately defeat Covid in the long run.
Otherwise we are just winking in the dark!
(Kulbhushan Kain is an award winning educationist
with more than 4 decades of working in schools in India
and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket,
travelling and cooking. He can be reached at