Several government or government-aided schools in the districts, including the Sunderbans, have the infrastructure needed to resume on-campus classes but are unsure of whether students would be able to cope because many have been away from studies for a long period.
Many among them are from financially deprived families and have had to drop out of school.
The schools now need to bring them back to class, the principals of at least two schools said.
A lack of access to devices has led to gaps in learning, which schools now have to address when on-campus classes resume for Classes IX to XII.
A school in the Sunderbans is planning visits to students’ homes to bring them back to campus from November 16.
“A section of students have left the city and gone to south India to work as labour. We need to identify families, make home visits and re-enrol them in school so they do not quit,” said Pulak Roy Chowdhury, the headmaster of Kanaknagar SD Institution in Hingalganj.
Roy Chowdhury said that barely 30 per cent of students in his school attended online classes. So, for the rest of the students, teachers will have to devise plans to help the children reach the academic standard expected at their level.
Several schools are conducting staff meetings and drafting academic plans to address the learning gaps that students have suffered in the last 18 months.
“Teachers have been told to revise the syllabus in a way so that students at least know the basics of their present level, which will help them comprehend and understand texts when they move to the next level,” said Roy Chowdhury.
A school headmaster in Mathurapur in South 24-Parganas said that some families have got their daughters married off, while other girls — some of whom used to live in hostels — have dropped out of school.
“We are personally making calls to them or trying to reach them through panchayats or local groups so that they come back to school,” said Chandan Maity, the headmaster of Krishnachandrapur High School.
Schools are asking guardians to come to campus, not just to tell them about Covid safety protocols but also to sensitise them about the need to allow their children to continue studies, he said.
Even in the city’s outskirts, in Howrah, the headmistress of a school spoke of learning gaps because of online classes.
“These students are from families who do not have access to personal devices and the family has only one smartphone. The girls would get the phone only when their father would return home. Under such circumstances, how can we expect the girls to be up to date with whatever teaching has happened?” asked Shubra Chakraborty, the headmistress of Howrah Jogesh Chandra Girls’ School.
Chakraborty said the approach of teachers would be crucial to get these girls back.
“I have told my teachers that they have to be sympathetic with the girls. Instead of penalising them for mistakes, they will have to encourage them. Positive reinforcement will help to reduce the learning gaps,” said Chakraborty.