For the first time since March-end when restrictions were imposed to check the Covid-19 pandemic, schools opened in some parts of the country on Monday. However, only seven states and one Union territory chose to act on the Centre’s ‘Unlock 4’ guidelines issued last month, which allowed opening of schools from September 21 for students of Class 9 and above.
Driven by concern for health amid the spread of the virus, the attendance in the schools in these seven states and J&K was very thin on the first day. The other states are yet to decide a date for resuming the institutes, Delhi being one of them.
In Assam, teachers felt the ground situation was not very convincing. K Chanda, principal of South Point School in Guwahati, said less than 10 per cent of students of classes IX and XII attended school. “Many guardians wanted to watch the response on the first day,” he said. “Online classes are on, so why take a chance,” said Atanu Chakraborty, a class XII student from Railway Higher Secondary School, Maligaon, Assam.
With Covid-19 infections rising, it was the same story in Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, J&K, Haryana, Himachal and Nagaland – where schools resumed.
“My parents let me go to school when I insisted. But, I returned from the gates when I found none of my friends turned up,” said Abhishek Agarwal, who studies in a private school in Bhopal.
A Madhu Babu, an English teacher at ZP High School in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, said they discussed various components of Covid-19 precautions during the meeting with parents on Monday. However, attendance remained low in both private and government schools in the state.
Many governments are yet to take a decision. While the Gujarat government decided against re-opening of schools from September 21 “in the interest of students” at a cabinet meet presided over by chief minister Vijay Rupani on September 16, the Uttar Pradesh government will review the situation and take a call on this matter by September 30. It has asked education department officials to begin awareness campaigns on social distancing and Covid-19 protocols in schools and to feel the pulse of all stakeholders on resuming regular classes after September 30.
“There is a risk of transmission of the virus if students gather at one place. It is not advisable for students to attend school in the present situation,” said Gujarat education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. He said decision will be taken once the situation improves.
UP deputy CM Dinesh Sharma, who is also the minister for secondary and higher education, said: “Safety of students cannot be compromised.”
“Even if schools reopen, students should be given the options of both online and offline classes, so that social distancing would be easier in classrooms,” said class XI student Piyush Pant of Spring Dale College in Lucknow.
States like Maharashtra, Goa, Jharkhand, Telangana, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal too are undecided on a date as many of them are still consulting the stakeholders.
Maharashtra school education minister Varsha Gaikwad conducted a virtual meeting recently with the stakeholders across the state to seek opinion. During the meeting, most of the participants said they weren’t willing to start physical classes as yet.
While Bihar principal secretary (education) Sanjay Kumar has convened a meeting on Tuesday to discuss a probable date for re-opening and in what manner, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant, who is also the education minister, has announced that with cases on the rise in the state, a decision would be taken by October 2.