The Education Department of Mumbai's municipal corporation or BMC is probably one of the most active and diverse systems in our country compared to similar departments in any other state or municipal corporation.
A brief look at it tells us that 3,76,791 students study in 1,231 schools of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai dotted across the city. The students learn in languages ranging from Marathi to English, Semi-English, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Kannada and more.
The deeper one looks at this system, the more surprises it throws up.
A couple of years before anyone started speaking of digitization in India and its importance, Uddhav Thackeray initiated the ambitious project of virtual classrooms. Almost 480 classrooms are now connected via satellite to provide 2-way video-conferencing facilities to BMC schools. Similarly, digital boards are being installed in various classes to make teaching easy and learning more interactive and attractive. As I see it, the previous century used language as a medium of teaching and learning. This century, technology has become the most important language of instruction.
Approximately 18,000 students of the municipal corporation's schools learn using educational tablets in five languages. The tabs have digitally-scanned text books, audio-visuals, notes, revision tests and a dictionary. These tabs have helped to reduce the load from nine textbooks at a time to carrying just one tab.
The basic duty of the municipal corporation is that of primary education, while the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai provides access to affordable middle and secondary schools too. This is a major relief for the citizens of Mumbai, unknowingly. The students of BMC schools are provided 27 education-related essentials free so that the burden of providing education isn't on the students' families.
Whilst many of the 1,231 schools have existed for decades and some structures need renovation, 78 schools are under active renovation and 181 will be taken up next year. Providing clean campuses with clean classrooms and bathrooms is a priority, along with science labs, computer labs, libraries and play areas. Funds to help all schools get science and computer labs have been sanctioned this year.
Along with giving students exposure to technology, science labs and computer labs, the BMC is also in the phase of having pilot projects for non-conventional classes - professionals speaking about their dreams in their fields of excellence such as sport, business, art to kids and how they chased it.
The BMC has approved a couple of major programs to begin 2017 with:
1. Just Play - an organization from the Pacific Region, supported by FIFA, to impart lessons on hygiene, sanitation and gender equality, all through football
3. Shankar Mahadevan Music Academy - will give a whole new perspective to learning music and incorporating it in regular studies
Sport and culture haven't been far behind. Many students from the BMC schools compete and win at national competitions, right from chess to boxing to other sports. The Scouts and Guides have an active tradition in the schools. A 5-day festival marks the celebration of World Music Day on 1st October each year through music and plays performed by students and teachers. More than 58,000 students participate in an art competition annually to mark the birth anniversary of Late Shri Balasaheb Thackeray.
One of the most important movements taken up in 2017 is the installation of sanitary napkin vending machines and incinerators in 162 secondary schools of the BMC. This will help 16,102 girls studying in these schools to have access to sanitary pads, encourage them to come to school without fearing health issues. Girls attending BMC schools also get an attendance allowance in the form of a fixed deposit in a bank account, accessible after schooling. Yearly health check-ups of students allows the municipal corporation to help them remain well. Necessary treatments are undertaken by the municipal healthcare department, while vitamin tablets are given to those found with deficiencies.
Plans are to have a course on basic self-defence for all students, especially girls of all BMC schools, so that no one can dictate to them what they should wear and where they can go. Skill development courses are underway in some schools, and plans to expand them into all schools are being made.
As we move ahead into a world where employability will depend on skills based on the schooling one has, it is very important for a municipal corporation to give the best of educational facilities to those who need it but cannot afford it. That balance would be the truest form of the right to education, where education means e-quality: e(ducation) - quality being at par with centres of excellence.
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