30% Students Didn’t Return to Schools After Pandemic; Odisha Govt to Try Reverse Trend

After discovering that about 30 per cent of students have not returned to schools as classroom teaching resumed after a gap of two years due to the pandemic, the Odisha government has asked the district collectors to try reverse the alarming trend. Analysing the daily attendance data from schools collected by District Education Officers (DEOs), it was seen that around 70 per cent of students are attending the classes, School and Mass Education Department secretary BP Sethi said in a letter to district heads.

On detailed analysis, it was seen that the attendance in classes 1 to 5 in districts such as Malkanagiri, Boudh, Gajapati, Sambalpur and Nuapada was less than the state average, he wrote. The performance of Malkanagiri, Boudh, Sambalpur and Nuapada is also poor in case of attendance in classes 6 to 8, he added.

In the secondary section, attendance in schools in Gajapati, Bolangir, Bargarh, Sonepur, Nuapada, Cuttack, Khordha, Koraput, Ganjam, Boudh, Malkangiri, Keonjhar, Sambalpur is less than the state average, Sethi said. The overall attendance in higher secondary classes is abysmally low in Gajapati, Sonepur, Baragarh, Kandhamal and Nuapada, which is a matter of concern, he mentioned.

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“The above figures lead us to believe that thorough analysis has to be made to know the whereabouts of the absentee students. It may so happen, these students who are not attending the offline classes might have dropped out/ moved out along with their parents/ 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,” he noted. A review by the School and Mass Education Department also found that many students passing out of class 8 are not taking admission in class 9.

“We have to devise a location-specific strategy to bring back the students to the classroom,” Sethi told the district collectors. Noting that the department has prepared a strategy to bring back the absent students, he asked the collectors to conduct a school-level survey to list the students who are not attending classes.

“The junior teachers who are posted in schools may be sent to the houses of the absentee students to know the reason for their absence from the school,” he said. “These junior teachers should also motivate students and their parents to send their ward to the school and explain the benefit of sending the student to school and steps taken by the government to provide free books, free uniform, MDM (mid-day meals) and scholarships to students…,” he said.

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Panchayat members and woman self-help groups can also be roped in for the exercise, Sethi said. As a Learning Recovery Plan (LRP) is under implementation by the government to help the students recover from the learning loss, maximum attendance of students should be ensured, he said.

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