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Not the Disruptions We Were Hoping!

To read a news article about 35000 teachers out of jobs in a South Indian state was not the inspiration that educators wanted to wake up to this morning. This mind you, as all our group chats are discussing, this is not restricted to the South or the East, it is spreading quickly and across the country and with school owners staring at a closure given their capital costs and upgrade investments, and their EMIs, not to mention salaries, this is alarming. In some cases, staff has been asked to discontinue, and in some cases, school owners are exiting themselves. Some names doing the rounds are quality institutes, and an exit could have a significant detrimental impact that many at the moment do not seem to think through.

This is not the education industry alone, I know of friends in other industries all caught in the pandemic-hit deep waters, and while economists argue about recovery rates be it the V or the U shaped curve, fact of the matter is that times are difficult and may be for very long. But other industries are rallying, and holding on to their man power and creating pathways ahead. There are discussions and forward or backward integrated partners are all coming together to find solutions so that their eco system ‘fights’ the storm as one unit. Industry moves ahead.

Lessons to be learnt for those in the education space?? An overwhelming yes!

Instead of flooding the courts with petitions for and against bans on line teaching, non payment of fees should we not concentrate on finding solutions?! Effort, man hours spent in those court strategies might as well be channelised in focusing on finding solutions. Each school understanding the capabilities of their parent body – need based of course and parents understanding the losses faced by school owners. Sorry I will have to point this out, this advocate (parents have shared these whats app fwds) circulating messages to join in a movement and luring parents with anticipated fee waivers has some parents signing up who have paid fees – can afford to. Their explanation is if a ‘discount’ is possible, why not? Why should I not avail of it? So what if I am not in a financial problem, why should I suffer because I have a contingent plan for it? Just because I always wanted to save for the rainy day, why should I pay that price and someone else gets a ‘discount’.

Me, I, my …… for me, I only took away, ‘personal‘ responses. I, me, myself! Yes I know we have to think of ourselves first, but this way, we will never get us over of this rut. We must think again. And think for the future and what our narrow views today can do.

By the way, this is what we try and teach our children in schools – we, us, and together, helping each other. In schools, we focus on kids learning to ‘share’ when the other one does not have what they have …. creating empathy. Clearly, adults are not understanding that if we can help each other and only demand when it is genuine, we will be able to save this eco system. This cannot be relayed on some television channel, these are engaging conversations we have with our children when in the virtual world as well!

If this does not happen, and there is a lack of empathy, the recovery will be peppered with quality compromises, regressive ideas and recovery rates that impacts the nation as a whole.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not being patronising. I am living this crisis as much as any of you. As an edupreneur, I have clients not honouring their commitments on time-lines, and requesting for extensions, citing financial difficulties. I have had to extend the OD’s to honour government GST payments as I do not get respite given that invoices have been raised. I am liable to pay late charges. We have had to deal with it, yet honouring all staff and admin salaries who are currently not contributing much because of the trying circumstances.

This is what owners go through. And rarely in this discussion has anyone tried to understand this point of view. The assumption, they had the funds to set it up, the funds are endless to sustain it. Untrue. And very very limiting. Do not penalise those that gave you better systems, quality teaching and infra which you were happy about in March and now the same people are not part of your support group!

At this point, I can only recognise that we have to deal with it one problem at a time – one demographic at a time. This is not a generalised verdict and certainly blanket decisions will not work.

My personal view is that Covid19 showed us loud and clear how far away we were from where we wanted to be as a progressive industry, and just when we came together and were building capabilities and capacity, governments intervened and halted that path of progress. Instead of upgrading teacher skills, becoming creative with content and changing our approach to teaching and learning and using socio emotional learning and life skills as a core, we are focusing on bans and petitions.

Parents, the ball is in your court, and managements you have a role to play. Learning has to be seamless for the sake of this future that is in our homes and classrooms tomorrow, and that it cannot stop.

Now how does this story pan out? Managements communicating with parents and providing flexibility (And i do not mean ‘discounts’ but staggered payments), parents respecting and honouring their commitment made when the child was enrolled, and saving teachers who need to keep at it if this learning has to be seamless.

Leave governments out of this discussion and learn to resolve problems as a unit. Like other industries are doing. Unemployment is not a solution. Think how to save this.

Focus on using this time to improve quality, not create obstacles.

Re-think. Re-adjust and yes, help others if you can – not just in your schools but those homes were devices are not in abundance and where connectivity is an issue …. each one, save one. It may be a start.

We have to think as a unit. Not a time for I, me but we and us.

IT companies, NGOs, CSR Heads – let’s rope them in, finance companies that can work something out …. let’s see how to move this forward, together.

And some progressive schools have already figured this out. Let’s duplicate these stories. For once I am in favour of duplication!


Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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