Karnataka suspends learning scheme amid fear of Covid spread – Times of India

BENGALURU: Vidyagama, the Karnataka government’s continuous learning programme for students of government schools, was temporarily discontinued on Saturday amid fears that it was spreading Covid-19 among students and teachers.

The programme, introduced two months ago to ensure that over 45 lakh students from under-privileged background in rural and urban centres without access to online infrastructure are not deprived of education, was much talked about with many accusing the government of putting children’s live at risk. The issue took a political turn with some elected representatives taking objection to the programme despite the government clarifying there was no spread of Covid.

‘Programme stopped till relevant analysis’

On Saturday, primary and secondary education minister S Suresh announced: “I have noticed the opinions expressed in some sections regarding the Vidyagama programme… The principal secretary (education department) has been directed to temporarily stop the Vidyagama programme until the department completes the relevant analysis.”

Though some were against the programme since the beginning, reports of flouting of social distancing norms at classes and probable infections and public outrage led to the decision.

On Friday, 23 students tested positive for Covid in Ramdurg, Belagavi district, and parents reportedly did not allow teachers to even enter the village as they blamed the latter for exposing children to Covid. According to reports, 15 teachers contracted Covid in the district in the past two months. In Kalaburagi district, four children tested positive two weeks ago.

Launch of Vidyagama

When Vidyagama was kickstarted in 43,000 government schools in August first week, it was hailed as a boon for most students with no internet connectivity. The programme took shape on the recommendations of an expert committee. Under Vidyagama, every school formed a virtual class with 20-25 students with a mentor (teacher). Children were to be grouped from classes 1-5, 6-8 and 8-10 based on geographical area and in different categories like those without any type of technology-based gadgets, those with mobiles but no internet access and those with gadgets with internet access.

Mentors visited homes of children in their neighbourhood as many times as possible in a week to monitor their progress. The meetings were held in community centres, religious places, under the shade of a big tree with social distancing norms in place. The government also introduced Samveda, a TV-based learning programme as part of the Vidyagama, which had lessons relayed on DD Chandana.

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