Schools all over India were shut down in 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. The dilemma about their reopening continued with the advent of the second wave and its aftermath. In its report to the Parliament, the Standing Committee on Education, Women, and Children stated that the closure of schools due to Covid-induced lockdowns had resulted in child-marriages and child-labour. The report said, “the closure of schools has impacted the social fabric of families in a negative manner, leading to early/child marriages and increased involvement of children in household chores. The present situation has exacerbated the learning crisis that existed even before the pandemic with the marginal and vulnerable children getting adversely affected.” This led to various states deciding on resuming physical classes. However, online or distance learning will continue to be an alternate mode of teaching.
The Delhi government has decided on phased reopening of educational institutions in September 2021. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that in the first phase, schools for Classes 9 to 12, coaching classes, and colleges will reopen on September 1. From September 8, students of Classes 6 to 8 will be allowed to go for physical classes. He also reiterated the necessity of following social distancing, not forcing any student to come to school, and taking parents’ consent for the same.
The Tamil Nadu government has released SOP to reopen schools, according to which classes 9-12 students will attend classes from September 1 with 50 per cent attendance, six days a week, in batches of not more than 20 students per classroom. All teachers and non-teaching staff must get themselves vaccinated and wearing masks for students and staff is mandatory. As per the health, hygiene and safety protocols, schools’ premises, furniture, handrails, doors, and windows should be cleaned and disinfected properly prior to re-opening. Hand wash facilities with soap and running water should be made available and in addition hand sanitizers should be provided in all classrooms, the SOP said. Toilets and wash areas should be cleaned, disinfected properly, and maintained with cleanliness. Alternate arrangements should be made by the management for contact-less attendance for teachers or staff instead of biometric attendance, during the pandemic. Helpline numbers, including those of local health authorities and mobile teams to contact in case of emergency, should be displayed.
According to Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, all government and private schools in the state will reopen on September 1 for Classes 6 to 12. The consent of parents is mandatory. School management and parents will also have to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols. Schools in Telangana State are opening from September 1 and Andhra Pradesh from August 16.
After calling students of Classes 9 to 12 for physical classes, the Uttar Pradesh government has now decided to reopen schools for Classes 1 to 8. Physical classes in schools for students of grades 1 to 5 will resume on September 1. "The order has been issued to open schools for students of classes 6-8 from September 23 and for classes 1-5 from September 1," a senior official said.
Rajasthan schools will reopen on September 1 for Classes 9 to 12, along with universities, colleges and coaching institutes, according to a state government notification. Only 50 per cent of students will be allowed to attend classes in each session to maintain the COVID-19 protocol.
Although, various state governments have released SOPs and set the dates for reopening of schools for offline classes, it remains to be seen whether the parent community is ready to send their children to schools amidst the threat of the third wave and in the absence of vaccinations.
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Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.