BMC comes up with Rs.38-crore plan for digital classrooms amidst the pandemic

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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has proposed a ₹38-crore project to create digital classrooms in various municipal schools. This is to replace blackboards with interactive digital boards in Mumbai’s civic schools. The project is set to cover 1,300 classrooms. 

“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation intends to create digital classrooms in various municipal schools for interactive education. The digital classrooms shall have an interactive panel (smartboard) preloaded with software containing the Maharashtra State Board’s syllabus on all subjects from class I and class X, games, audiovisual and PowerPoint presentation slides and quizzes,” stated the tender floated by the office of the BMC chief engineer (mechanical and electrical) on behalf of the education department.

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An initial pre-bid meeting saw over 65 service providers; including some market leaders and contractors revealing interest in the project, which was held on July 20, officials said. The project of installing these digital classrooms should be completed within the six months of the contract being awarded by the shortlisted contractors and undertake teacher training sessions every three months.

The chief engineer’s office specified that the smartboard should include an Intel 3, with at least 65 inches display, 50 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM. A keyboard and a mouse must be on hand for immediate use and a minimum life of 50,000 hours.

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Based on the above specifications, the estimated cost for each smart board will be Rs 2.83 lakh, with an overall expenditure of Rs 38 crore. This included a cost of Rs 24,780 per device with a total cost of Rs 3.22 crore towards the preloading of e-learning and multimedia content on these devices.

The initial estimated cost of the project was around Rs 60 crore and it had been brought down to Rs 38 crore, a senior civic official said

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Education Committee Chairman Anjali Naik told The Indian Express that she would “seek more details about the project”. She further added, “Reaching out to the rest will be our priority”.

She added that BMC’s immediate priority was to ensure that every child, regardless of whether she has access to a smartphone or not, gets continued access to education. “Reaching out to the rest will be our priority,” Naik said.

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About 40 to 42 per cent of students enrolled in civic schools are using the Internet and smartphones at present to access online classes and study materials.

BMC Joint Commissioner Ashutosh Salil said: “The cost estimates for the tender were arrived at after evaluating listings and rates quoted by vendors on the Union government GeM portal (government e-marketplace)”.

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He clarified that the proposal for the tender had been processed before the strike of pandemic and that the processing of tender and grants will take a while.

This decision came amidst when there is no clear answer to when schools will be reopened.

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Although the MHRD had announced that all classes would be having online lectures, the Maharashtra state government has not allowed the schools to conduct online classes for kindergarten children to class II.

Source: Ministry of Human Resources and Development

The schools, however, are charging the complete fees from the students of kindergarten until class II. Parents all around Mumbai are protesting against schools to reduce the fees since students are not utilizing the facilities provided by the school. 

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Many parents are concerned, as it is getting quite difficult for the students to stay connected to their study material since many don’t own a computer or a laptop. 

For instance, if there are two kids in a house, the family will have to provide a separate laptop to each of the students, which may not be possible for most of them.

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During times when many people have lost their jobs and many have had to suffer pay cuts, anguished parents are requesting for a change in the fee structure and demanding concessions from schools.

“I won’t be paying the full fees since my child is in class II and only need to do the homework that is being sent by the school. I don’t think that paying the complete fees is justified for homework a day,” said a parent while talking to MaverickTimes

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She further added, “Because of the lockdown, I am not able to pay the fees of the new academic year since my husband’s salary has been cut to half. I have 2 more children in the same school who are in higher classes.”

Since the schools are shifting online as of now, could this be a new normal? Moreover, will the schools consider changing the fee structure if the schools won’t open its premises for a long time? 

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Photo Credits: Sharad Maverick (MaverickTimes)

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