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Spotlight on The Parent-School Relationship

Since the world and particularly India went into its first lockdown in March 2020, with the obvious school closures as an important fallout, there was another kind of development that was brewing. This was the start of a strain on the the home and school relationship which even at that point seemed to be fragile. The reality simply is that private schools in this country are considered ‘money-making’ institutions, yet parents line up for admissions in them and find different ways and means to ensure that their children get the best of the private education system which they ‘somewhat’ associate with quality. Despite all disclosures at the time of admission, there emerges a consistent trend of questions about yearly increments, and the ‘problems’ with the school only arise as the year ends and fees are declared for the next year.

Before I am attacked on this point, granted that this is way too generic a perspective (and some schools have failed to live up to promises and commitments) but there are also many progressive schools that have great relationships between the home and school but if you analyse what has happened as a country since March 2020, we are faced with a harsh reality and some ugly truths. The relationship for most was based on mis-trust (may I be granted the liberty of saying this given what media reports daily as an experience pan India) and that began with first the ‘resistance’ to on-line learning and thereafter demands on fee waivers, leaving managements at a loose end – in courts, fighting charges and yet delivering on their on-line learning, low fee collections and looking down at the barrel and realising they are unable to sustain. Many let teachers go.

While governments dictated protocols of school opening, many States that did start early are shut again and those that started had half the population of the school community in their classrooms – those that were legally allowed. Not to mention that some States continue to be virtual as I write this article.

Imagine the little children in all of this. While their world of friendships and class banter came to standstill and households turned upside down to cope with the new reality of being in lockdown, they were at the mercy of what their parents decided and not necessarily the schools. And some stories are not pretty ones at all!

So now that we are in Jan 2021 and the year has gone by with no signs of opening perhaps till March end, many teachers laid off as parents struggle to pay fees and managements struggle to keep their ship afloat.

Some surveys conducted in December 2020 about parental thoughts about sending their children back to the physical world, had parents clearly stating that they had no desire to risk the health of their little ones without the sign of the vaccine and as the vaccine is being rolled out, now the discussions has shifted to – how safe is it?

With teachers not in the priority class as far as the dosage is concerned, the question remains – now what. What happens? When will the schools finally open?

There’s another fact – while online was seamless, some schools and parents struggled to make it an effective learning option. I will suggest we still accept that the engagements while being demanding on families coping against many odds at home, at least it meant the year was not a total write off. I just wish some of the academic boards be it national or international had thought this through and made a decision about quality vs quantity earlier on so that Grades 10 and 12 are not left anxious the way they are now.

It seems, we dont learn from our experiences and hope for the world to go back to the old ways somehow, and in that each time there is more disappointment for stake holders, especially parents.

As mental health challenges are on the rise, and fatigue has set in, some parents are simply praying that schools re-open. Each time this discussion comes up, the question of safety arises and that’s just my point about the fragility of this relationship which otherwise should have been one of mutual respect, empathy, compassion, understanding and support. What it has turned into is an Us Vs Them argument constantly whether it was about the necessity of on-line or fee reductions and now about ‘trusting’ that the school will be careful.

We have to as a community of adults, make some serious changes in the way we think, communicate and truth each other. We have got to understand the months ahead are even more crucial as the consequences of the ‘new normal’ will be apparent and visible. And some of these are not happy stories – from mental health challenges, withdrawals, addictive habits to simply fatigue and a sense of giving up.

If now for the sake of the children, we cannot come together and build a strong bond, we will be staring down another mini collapse, and this one will be on our hands and not blamed on a virus.

Of course schools are going to be careful, of course they will follow norms, of course they want the well being of their children and staff and the question to be asked is about capabilities.

Those that have had financial support from parents are sitting pretty ready to open with changes that have been suggested by local authorities because they had the funds to do this and those parents that demanded full waivers or ‘atleast’ 50 percent are staring at school opening with a semi approach to safety.

So who is to blame do I hear the question?

Well no one – kind of like the ‘chicken and egg‘ scenario and while we cannot change the past, it is imperative that the future does not suffer at the hands of what we have in control in our present.

A strong home-school partnership with clear communication channels of receiving and sharing information for the sake of the child is the only solution. It has to be based on faith and belief, and also of mutual discussions and suggestions. It has to be a COLLABORATIVE effort.

Do we have takers? Or will be let history repeat itself?

Phew, I for one have had enough of the lockdown world, and spare a thought for those children, who need a world when those that they look upto – teachers and parents lead the way with dignity and respect.

Again, do we have any takers?


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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