Pune: The year 2017 saw clashes between the government and school teachers across the State, over several issues, the major one being the woes of digitisation that the latter have had to face.
While the State government is pushing the Education Department, like the rest of the sectors, to go digital, the teachers across Maharashtra protested against the move on a large scale this year, due to the lack of adequate resources and infrastructure required to go online.
Several activities including uploading students' data on 'SARAL' portal, to transfers of teachers and using e-learning software were shifted to online this year, receiving a flack from the teachers all over due to the inconvenience caused by the process.
Difficult to go online for the teachers
"Internet connectivity is a huge issue in the State of Maharashtra, especially in rural areas. The school teachers in the remote areas of the State, the tribal regions lack so many basic amenities, forget about good Internet connectivity.
Teachers, at times, have to leave their primary job of teaching to go outside the village in search of Internet connection to complete the formalities. This is unjust for the teachers, and also reflects in our teaching process," Raosaheb Avare, Founder President, Maharashtra State Secondary and Higher Secondary School Principals Joint Association said.
However, he also pointed out that the situation is not prevalent only in rural areas. The situation is the same in the cities and other 'not-so-backward' regions of the State as well, where the teachers faced a huge 'server' problem to upload data on 'SARAL' portal, to carry out RTE admission process, etc.
"We are not against technological advancement. We know that they are meant to make everything easier and more convenient. However, there is a need to put the infrastructure required to make this work in place before imposing the processes on the teachers," Avare added.
Lack of trained manpower
One of the major issues faced by these teachers is the lack of trained manpower. Yunus Patel, Principal of a school in Aurangabad said, "Before shifting to online, the education department was supposed to give us new manpower to carry out the new work. At least, they should have first trained the teachers and principals for the same, before imposing it on us. This is leaving the teacher stressed and they are not able to give their 100 per cent towards teaching."
While e-learning was one of the major projects that were meant to be taken up by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the insistence of the Kunal Kumar, Municipal Commissioner to use only online e-learning platforms, has brought the project to a hault.
Speaking about it on an earlier occasion, education activist Vivek Velankar said, "The government has already invested in the hardware needed for the project like the projector, TVs, etc. These amenities are already lying useless in the schools. If the connectivity issues persist, even the Internet connections given to the schools will turn out to be useless, and the funds of around Rs 21 crore proposed for the project will be wasted.
Instead, the PMC should now take help from the NGOs that are willing to provide assistance for the e-learning project, though not through an online platform."
Even Balchitrawani was shut to give way to its online counterpart e-Balbharati this year, where the teachers were to access the digital content related to the syllabus through QR codes published in textbooks. However, with the Internet connectivity issues persistent everywhere, there is a doubt over how useful this content was for the teachers and the students this year.
The haste to go online
The government, on the other hand, has always justified the whole digitisation process of the government saying that it will bring transparency, and over the time even convenience, in the whole system. However, the debate that the education activists keep raising is that why the authorities are in a haste to make everything digital, in absence of the resources to do so smoothly?
Speaking with media on an earlier occasion, Education Minister Vinod Tawde said that the government is carrying out the audit of the online work that the teachers have to do and will also be looking for a solution to their problems, but no concrete decision has been taken so far.