After loss of two back-to-back academic sessions due to COVID-19 pandemic, about 30% students are now found not attending schools in primary, secondary and higher secondary classes in Odisha.
The disturbing trend came to the fore when the State Government reopened schools after normalcy was restored and started checking attendance sheets.
“On analysis of the daily attendance figure provided by the District Education Officers, it is seen that about 70% students are attending the classes. However, on detailed analysis the figure, it is seen that the attendance in Class-I to Class-V in case of districts like Malkangiri, Boudh, Gajapati, Sambalpur and Nuapada is less than the State average,” said Bishnupada Sethi, School and Mass Education (SME) Secretary.
Mr. Sethi said this was not at all a healthy sign of students not attending schools despite the government making provisions for midday meal and implementing learning recovery plan.
In order to compensate the learning loss, the State Government curtailed summer vacation and rescheduled school timing from 6.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m. The programme is being religiously tracked from block level.
“Similarly, in case of attendance for Class-VI to Class-VIII, the performance of districts like Malkangiri, Boudh, Sambalpur, Nuapada is also less than the State average,” says the analysis.
As per the SME department, in the secondary wing, the performance of districts like Gajapati, Balangir, Bargarh, Sonepur, Nuapada, Cuttack, Khordha, Koraput, Ganjam, Boudh, Malkangiri, Keonjhar and Sambalpur is behind the State average.
The overall attendance in higher secondary classes is abysmally low in Gajapati, Sonepur, Baragarh, Kandhamal and Nuapada which is matter of concern.
“It may so happen that these students who are not attending the offline classes might have dropped out or moved out along with their parents or lost interest in academic activities due to non-continuance of the teaching schedule due to the pandemic situation and many other reasons, which need analysis,” Mr. Sethi emphasised.
As a matter of fact, it is observed that many students passing out from Class-VIII are not taking readmission in Class-IX and they might be dropping out.
“Special care should be taken to get them admitted at secondary level in nearby schools. So we have to devise location-specific strategy to bring back the students to the classroom,” the SME Secretary told District Collectors.
If the 30% absentees are extrapolated, the number of students not coming to schools could be in the range of 20 lakh. It is not yet known if the same set of students keeps bunking schools.
As the disturbing trend appears to be scaring, the education department has pressed the alarm bottom, asking field functionaries to conduct a micro-level survey at the school-level to list out the students who are not coming to school.
As part of strategy to lure students to schools again, the collectors have been asked to instruct that “the junior teachers who are posted in schools may be sent to the houses of the absentee students to know the reason of their absence from the school.”
These junior teachers should also motivate the students and their parents to send their ward to the school and explaining its benefit and steps taken by government to provide free books, free uniform, MDM and scholarship to students and bicycles.
School Management Committees, Panchayati Raj institution representatives and village-level committees should be roped in to bring students back to schools, Mr. Sethi said. Recently, the Odisha Government received another jolt when over 43,000 students did not turn up for writing the final examination of Class-X, considered an important milestone in one’s academic career.