HARD LABOR FOR KIDS!

By Rajan Narayan

FROM the next academic year 2025-2026, even young children in primary school will have to work eight hours a day. History will be reduced to labor as for government employees and bank employees. The only compensation is that if they work an eight-hour day they will get Saturdays off. Schools which observe a six-hour day will have to work six days a week. At present schools in Goa function for an average of five-and-a-half hour day including a snack break of 30 minutes.
Primary school functions only from 8 am to 2 pm. The students can go back for lunch to their home. Under the new education policy, students from the 1st standard to the 10th standard will have to put in eight hours a day. This includes the lunch break. Kids will require a one-hour lunch break because they cannot survive for eight hours with just a snack. Now mothers back up some tiffin and not a full lunch for the kids.

MAJOR CHANGE
THERE will be a major change in how not only kids but parents and teachers cope with the new school hours. The present school hours were suitable for school management teachers and parents as well as kids. School management could hold two shifts with the primary school students coming in the morning and students from the higher classes coming in the afternoon. Now the school premises will be needed for the whole day.
For mothers, particularly working mothers, the half-day school was convenient. Goa has been observing a half-day school not only for students but also for teachers. Under the old system, the mothers would be back home by lunch after finishing their classes. Teaching was a welcome profession as it only involved working in the mornings, evenings were free. Now parents and teachers will have to wear the additional burden of an eight-hour work day.

NEW SYSTEM FLAWS
THE advantage of a half-day school was that children found time not only for tuitions but for extracurricular activities. Children could return to school for classes in music, dance or even karate classes. When the new system comes into force students will be too tired to attend extra classes. There will also be no time for extracurricular activities.
The sudden shift from the present five-hour school to eight-hour school will create problems for all the stakeholders. This not only includes children’s parents and teachers but also those who provide transport to school children from home to school and vice versa.
At present besides the school buses a number of auto-rickshaws and taxis are engaged for taking and bringing back students from school on a regular basis.
Not all private schools or even government schools have the Bal Rath facilities which is the public transport service for students. In the case of private school buses, the students have to pay. At present private transport can make four trips for the primary and secondary schools. It is difficult for the children to travel by public transport in Goa. School management will have to create additional classrooms and facilities for teachers and students for the new eight-hour school.

HUGE BURDEN
THE justification for the eight-hour school is that it is proposed to introduce vocational and hobby classes for the children. The claim is that this will take up more time than the present subjects. But the authorities have not considered it yet. It will put a huge burden on all concerned like school management, teachers, parents and students. For some strange reason schools in India open in June at the start of the rainy season. Maybe the logic is that in summer it get so hot, that students should stay at home.
The summer vacation becomes a vacation for sunstroke. There are lots of victims of the heatwave even among players in the ongoing IPL and spectators. The Bengaluru team which includes the outstanding batsman Virat Kohli had to drop the practice session because of the heat in Ahmadabad. The actor Shah Rukh Khan who went to see the match had been admitted to hospital because of heat stroke.
But the monsoons are a major problem for schoolchildren. The chances of their falling sick and getting wet are very high. But the children themselves seem to enjoy the rains in spite of the health hazards. As it is with Panaji being converted into a war zone by the Smart City people, it becomes dangerous for children. When the streets are flooded it is not misery for children. Besides, there is the additional expenditure on raincoats and umbrellas. The children will need more uniforms as wet uniforms take time to dry.
The worst aspect of an eight-hour session for schoolchildren is that there may be a high dropout. Children in Goa have been enjoying a half-day school for decades. It will be difficult for them to switch to an 8-hour school. The least that can be done is to give children an option between half-day school and full-day school.
The ideal school hours in a hot tropical country like India would be from 7 am to 1 pm. All the embassies of Western countries including the United States and the United Kingdom work from 7 am to 2 pm. This should be an ideal alternative for schools not only in Goa but in India as a whole country.

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