New Delhi/Chandigarh/Guwahati/Srinagar/Bengaluru: After almost six months, schools in some states partially reopened Monday. Under the Unlock 4 guidelines, the Ministry of Home Affairs had permitted students from classes 9 to 12 to visit their school from 21 September, on a voluntary basis, to seek guidance from teachers.
Only a few states like Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and three other states in the Northeast reopened schools and allowed students to come. Others decided to defer the opening in view of the rising cases of Covid-19.
However, on the first day of this partial reopening, Assam, Meghalaya, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir saw thin attendance.
In Haryana, only a fraction of those who had consent from parents, attended school on the first day.
According to officials in the education department, a total of 1.14 lakh parents of students in government schools allowed their children to attend school, and over 9,700 children in private schools had consent from their parents.
However, of the 1.14 lakh students with parents’ consent in government schools, only 22,500 showed up on Day One. The highest attendance in government schools was registered in the Fatehabad district where 1,567 students attended schools and lowest was in Panchkula with just 237 showing up. Attendance data for private schools was not compiled by the education department.
“The attendance was thin on day one. In urban areas, the attendance was worse than in rural areas,” said D. Ganeshan, Director, School Education, Haryana.
Assam and Meghalaya also reopen schools partially
Schools in four Northeastern states — Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram — also reopened Monday but registered slim attendance. The education departments in these states had decided to begin informal classes, but only a small percentage of students attended them, according to sources.
Even though the state governments did not provide a consolidated attendance figure, student attendance in certain pockets indicated a lukewarm response on first day.
In Kokrajhar, of Western Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), of the 500 students in Kokrajhar Girls’ Higher Secondary School, only 20 students were present on the first day of reopening.
Students wearing masks were allowed to enter school after getting screened for temperature and after producing a No Objection Certificate from their parents. All schools were asked to make necessary arrangements for sanitising hands and thermal screening.
“Necessary steps are being taken according to guidelines by the health department to reopen schools after six months. All 93 government schools will be given thermal screening machines. I hope the attendance will also improve gradually for most of the schools,” said Jagadish Prasad Brahma, Inspector of Schools in Kokrajhar.
In Meghalaya, consultation sessions between senior students and teachers were held in both government and private schools. Adequate arrangements were also made for sanitisers and thermal screening machines in these schools, ThePrint has learnt.
Meghalaya Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said there will be no regular classes but students can meet their teachers to clear doubts.
However, there was no data available on the percentage of students who came to school on day one.
Lukewarm response in Jammu and Kashmir schools
In Jammu and Kashmir, the government’s decision to open schools for counselling sessions for students of classes 9 to 12 was met with a lukewarm response. Local authorities, however, claimed that the attendance will increase in due time.
Principal Secretary, School Education and Skill Development, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon told ThePrint, “Some schools were opened today after a long time but there is still a fear of virus and that is the reason, the attendance is voluntary. We have made it clear that there will be no classes. The students of classes 9 to 12 will be sitting in board examinations in a few weeks so we thought they might want to visit their teachers for motivation or to clear doubts before the exams.”
Samoon added that nearly 10 per cent of school syllabus is yet to be covered for roughly 25 lakh students of J&K. He said it will be done through online classes and other measures taken by the administration like the classes held on Doordarshan.
Parents’ associations in the state also remained skeptical of the move.
“The administration needs to realise that studies in the state did not get affected only by Covid-19 lockdown but also the clampdown since last August (after revocation of Article 370). Now the trend is that whatever order is issued in New Delhi, it is copy pasted and re-issued here without taking into consideration local factors such as restrictions of the internet,” said Private Schools’ Association of J&K (PSAJK) President G.N. Var.
“Our situation is not similar to any (other) state. Our students have not received proper education since last year and they have decided to hold counselling sessions. Instead of aping other states, they should issue concrete SOP on how students are expected to deal with exams,” Var told ThePrint.
Karnataka backtracked at last moment
Schools in Karnataka were also set to reopen Monday but the state government backtracked on the decision at the last moment.
Late Saturday evening, S.R. Umashankar, Principal Secretary, Primary and Secondary Education, released a notification deciding against reopening schools.
“Due to rise in Covid-19 cases in the state, the decision of allowing children who opted to attend schools starting September 21 has been deferred till the end of September,” the notification read.
At first, the Karnataka government had said all schools, private and government, should be prepared to hold classes for students from classes 9 to 12. Attendance was not compulsory and was left to the discretion of parents and students.
However, the sudden spike in Covid cases in the past week, propelled the government to defer the reopening.
(Compiled by Kritika Sharma. With inputs from Chitleen Sethi, Karishma Hasnat, Azaan Javaid and Rohini Swamy)
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