Written by Monali Bordoloi and published on 06 September 2021.
If you have school-going kids, you must be keeping a tab on the news about schools reopening. What are the mandates being followed by different states? How do parents feel about sending their children back to school? Here's everything you should know
Whether or not you're ready to send them back, many schools across India are opening their doors to welcome students back after almost 18 months.
As vaccination drives are going on in full swing and the number of COVID-19 cases is comparatively less, various state governments have decided to go ahead and reopen schools in a phased manner. Physical classes for higher classes have started in states like Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana from September 1, following all the mandated COVID-19 protocols.
To assure students and parents about the safety of reopening schools, the Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, recently said that the vaccination of teachers would be on priority before school reopens. The government has also directed that educational institutions take special measures to maintain hygiene and adhere to COVID-19 protocols before starting physical classes.
While many schools are gearing up to open their doors to students, it is essential to note a High Court directive that the school management should not compel students to attend classes physically. It also says that if parents are not willing to send the child to school, they could continue to attend online classes.
While many states have decided to go ahead with physical classes, a few state governments have chosen to take it slow.
In the national capital, the Delhi state government has decided to go ahead with school reopening. However, online classes will continue, and attendance for physical classes is not mandatory.
The West Bengal government has announced that schools would reopen only post the Durga puja vacations after taking stock of the COVID-19 situation.
In a last-minute decision, the Assam Education Department recently announced that due to health concerns, schools would not open on September 1 as announced earlier. It is decided that schools and colleges would open from September 6 with not more than 30 students in a classroom. Educational institutions are asked to arrange seating in a way that ensures compliance of COVID-safety norms.
In Karnataka, schools have already started for classes 9 and 10. However, students can opt for online classes too. Uttar Pradesh also opened up its schools for classes 6 to 12 from the last week of August.
The Tamil Nadu government has opened schools for classes 9-12 from September 1 with 50 per cent capacity. However, all schools have been instructed not to have more than 20 students in one class. Schools have also been directed to make arrangements for students to attend school on alternate days if there are no additional rooms. Online classes for Tamil Nadu students would continue too.
In Maharashtra, where coronavirus cases were once one of the highest in the country, schools were reopened in rural areas from August 17. In urban areas, schools are allowed to open only for classes 8-12.
States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh also decided to reopen schools. While in Madhya Pradesh, physical classes for 6th to 12th grades have started with 50 per cent capacity from September 1, Rajasthan has opted to start physical classes for 9th to12th grades with 50 per cent attendance.
As it is important to know how parents feel about school reopening, we talked to parents from different parts of the country. One common thread from our conversations was that while some parents think that regular school would bring a sense of routine and discipline, most are still reluctant about physical classes amidst worrying news about the third wave of COVID-19.
Guwahati resident Barasha Das Kakoty, the mother of two school-going kids, said, "We welcome the move of the State's education department not to reopen schools in Assam immediately. As parents, the safety of our kids is the top priority for us. We are still uncertain if reopening of schools before vaccinating them is a good idea or not."
"If school reopens, I would like to send my children for physical classes, however, only after confirming that all safety guidelines are followed by the school authority. I am looking forward to the disciplined days of regular schooling for my kids as online classes have broken the discipline of student life. I also feel that due to many online distractions, kids are unable to focus on studies," said Smitha RP, mother to Heeral (8th std) and Sinchal (5th std). Smitha's children are students of Sri Aurobindo Vidya Mandir, Bangalore.
Satyendra Raj Gurung, from Darjeeling, has welcomed the move of the West Bengal government not to open school immediately as coronavirus cases saw a surge in the picturesque hill station recently.
Another mom from Gurugram, Pooja Thakur says, "Offline classes are always better than online classes for children's physical and emotional well-being. It also ensures less screen time for children. So, if the COVID-19 situation has improved, I would like to see them go back to schools." Pooja's daughter Paavani is a student at Scottish High school, Gurugram.
"Even if schools reopen, I will not send my child as I am not sure how strictly they will be adhering to safety standards. Also, there is still no vaccination for children, and there is news about a possible third wave of COVID-19 in October that would impact kids. In my opinion, we should wait for a couple of more months before taking a call on school reopening," said Raghav Kumaria, father of Vritti, a student at St Xavier's High School, Gurugram.
What's your take on school reopening? Do you think classroom education is crucial for learning? Do you feel it is safe to send your kids to school? Let us know your views.