To contain the cases of cyberbullying, “inappropriate” use of social media, addiction to gaming/betting, and access to “unhealthy content”, the Central government-run Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) have issued a revamped policy and banned the use of mobile phones by students at campuses, including dormitories.
The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), an autonomous body under the Union ministry of education that runs over 600 residential JNVs across the country, last month, wrote to all its regional offices informing them about the new policy.
“With the increasing incidents of students using mobile phones, it is important that NVS should have a revamped policy on mobile phones… Mobile phones may act as a breeding ground for cyber-bullying and inappropriate use of social media. Use of mobile phones distracts students from studies and Vidyalaya daily routine,” said Gireesh Kumar, assistant commissioner, in his letter addressed to the deputy commissioners of the NVS regional offices.
According to the action plan shared in the letter dated April 22, a copy of which is seen by HT, the schools have been asked to inform parents that “there is no place for students having mobile phones in the JNV”.
“Parents should be told that banning mobile phones is beneficial for students. Use of mobile phones by students at this young age may result in addiction to gaming sites, betting sites, unhealthy content, addiction to social media sites, friendship/attachment issues, and psychological disorders in addition to inevitable health issues related to vision, growth and arthritis, etc,” the letter added.
A senior official at the ministry, who wished not to be named, said there has always been a “no mobile phone” policy at the JNVs, as per the CBSE norms. However, principals at several JNVs said that the policy was never enforced strictly. “While students were strictly not allowed to use mobile phones in classes, some were using them in their dormitories and on the campus. The new action plan sent by the Samiti emphasised strict enforcement of the no mobile phone policy. The incidents have increased lately,” said a principal, requesting anonymity.
The JNVs have been asked to take undertakings from parents and students every year for the record. The students will undergo checking while leaving or coming back to the campus from a leave. “If a mobile phone is found in possession, it should be treated as an act of indiscipline and treated accordingly by the disciplinary committee of the JNV. Punitive measures like immediate suspension for a specified period or till the case is finally disposed of by the disciplinary committee may be taken immediately,” the NVS informed all the regional offices.
The principals have also been asked to conduct regular checking of the dormitories and directed to immediately confiscate the mobile phones found in possession of any student.
Besides, the Samiti has asked schools not to provide charging points in dormitories. “Broken/damaged switchboards are signs of students having mobile phones. Such cases should be dealt with appropriately…” the letter added.
The schools have been asked to contact the telecom service providers to know the active number of mobile phones at their campuses. “Mobile numbers of confiscated phones from students should be recorded and information should be requested from the service providers when these become active again in the campus,” it said, adding that in case of gross indiscipline, a transfer certificate (TC) may be issued to the concerned students.
Educationist Meeta Sengupta said that outright banning is not appropriate. “Till we have strong digital and hybrid pedagogies in place, mobile phones are unlikely to be used well for learning – and schools have a strong argument in trying to keep them out as they are more disruptive than useful. However, they are a safety mechanism for many students, and outright banning is rather harsh,” she said.