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Humidity holiday for schools

Bengal doesn’t need an excuse for a holiday but it has found one this summer: humidity.

The Mamata Banerjee government on Friday extended the vacation of all state-aided schools and unaided private schools affiliated to the state secondary and Higher Secondary boards by more than a week because of the oppressively sultry weather.

“Classes will remain suspended in all government, government-sponsored and non-government-aided and unaided schools (primary to Higher Secondary) from June 16 to June 25, 2014, because of (the) prevailing heatwave across the state,” reads a circular sent to primary, secondary and Higher Secondary schools.

Most of these schools were scheduled to open on June 16 after the summer break.

An official in the education department said schools where summer vacation was already over would close again till June 25.

“Private schools like South Point, Gokhale Memorial, St. Lawrence, Patha Bhavan, Nava Nalanda, Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and Shri Shikshayatan, which are affiliated to Madhyamik and Higher Secondary boards, will have to follow the announcement,” a source said.

Classes had restarted after the vacation in some of these schools while several others were scheduled to reopen next week.

“CBSE and ICSE schools do not come under the ambit of the holiday circular,” the government official said.

Students were overjoyed at the extension while teachers worried about the backlog that the extra nine days of vacation would create since the government had advanced this year’s summer break by almost two weeks because of the heat and the general elections in May.

The government had issued a circular on April 24 asking 57,000 primary and over 18,000 secondary and Higher Secondary schools to start their summer vacation on May 2 instead of May 15 this year.

Many of these schools started their vacation 15 days earlier than usual since they had to hand over the premises to the Election Commission for the five-phase Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Teachers said they lost nearly three weeks after the new session started in April, primarily to spare students the pain of attending schools during the May hot spell and the polls.

Sources said unscheduled holidays were putting extra pressure on students and teachers alike to complete the syllabus.

“How can we maintain quality if the number of working days of schools is reduced every day in some way or the other?” a teacher wondered.

Heads of some schools Metro spoke to welcomed the government’s move to keep classes suspended till June 25 by which time the delayed monsoon could arrive.

Some of them were surprised over the government leaving a crucial question unanswered: how will the schools make up for the lost time? “We would have been happy if the government had mentioned in the circular how we would compensate the loss of classes,” said a headmaster of a school.

“If the schools fail to complete the syllabus, students of Class X and Class XII would suffer the most. They would write the board exam next year, you see.”

A source in South Point said the school would take a decision on the government circular on Saturday. “We don’t want to keep classes suspended till June 25. We have convened a meeting with our teachers to discuss the topic.”

Nava Nalanda and Shri Sikshayatan were scheduled to reopen next week. They have not decided yet on extending the vacation.

The circular says teachers will attend schools and the admission process for Class XI will not be suspended.

The government had declared extra holidays on several occasions in the past, mainly to commemorate birth and death anniversaries of renowned personalities.

It had declared a holiday in 2012 to celebrate the birth anniversary of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. The previous year, it announced a holiday on Rabindranath Tagore’s death anniversary a holiday because the bard’s birth anniversary celebrations were over by the time Mamata came to power.

Schools remained closed even on the day after the poet’s death anniversary (Baishey Shraban) because the government thought the children would be too tired participating in state-sponsored programmes the day before.