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Beaming Delhi students return to school after 17 months, but rains, Covid worries hit attendance

Schools for classes 9 to 12, colleges and coaching centres reopened Wednesday in Delhi in a phased manner.

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New Delhi: For the first time in 17 months, students with beaming faces and ironed uniforms walked into the Jangpura Co-Ed Secondary School at 8 am Wednesday in the national capital.

After four hours of offline learning, the students walked out with the same smile. Many of their classmates had not turned up, because of parents’ lingering worries about Covid as well as the heavy rains in Delhi Wednesday, but they were glad to be back.

“Today our teacher made us write an essay on the problems we faced during the lockdown. She also explained our worksheets to us and cleared our doubts. I am so happy that schools have reopened. Studying online on a shared phone was very troublesome,” said Khushnuma Apsari, a Class 10 student.

“After so many months of just seeing our friends and teachers on the phone we are happy to finally meet them,” she said.

On Wednesday, schools for classes 9 to 12, colleges and coaching centres reopened in the national capital in a phased manner, as Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia announced last week. The reopening came 17 months after schools shut down in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sushani Parveen, whose 16-year-old daughter attended school, said, “We have sent our kids following all the Covid protocols, we know they are safe in schools. Other parents may feel apprehensive but I am confident she is safer in school as compared to the markets and other public places.”

The mother-of-two added, “Children are getting bored at home and supporting their online education is expensive. It is better if they come here and study.”

Also read: ‘We’re not responsible’ — Hyderabad parents fume as schools say send kids ‘at own risk’

Poor attendance

However, despite the enthusiasm over the reopening of schools in Delhi, only eight students turned up at the Jangpura school.

“Most children did not turn up because of the heavy rains and waterlogging. We have divided our 150 children into batches of 15 per class. Of those who came, parents sat with their children and took them home after the stipulated 4 hours,” said school principal Harish Chandra.

“We spoke to all the parents before reopening the school and found that most parents want to wait for 10-15 days to ‘observe the trends’ before sending their wards to school. Very few readily agreed to send their children,” he said.

However, the principal said, based on the school’s survey of parents, only 40 per cent of the total strength will be coming to school in the best case scenario.

At Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Subhash Nagar, about two-three children from each grade turned up. School principal Sant Ram said the reluctance in sending children to school was surprising.

“We have about 10 students who have turned up. We had set up a quarantine room and had prepared the school as per the (DDMA) guidelines,” he told ThePrint.

“It is possible that fewer students turned up due to the rains, we are hoping we will see better numbers in a week’s time. Although our on-premise vaccination centre did not see a shortage in footfall despite the rains,” he said.

According to the SOP released by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Monday, only 50 per cent of the seating capacity in a classroom can be occupied by students to ensure social distancing.

The guidelines also said lunch hours should be staggered and in open spaces to allow students to freely remove their masks while eating. They further suggested spacing out the schedule to avoid overcrowding the premises.

At Shalimar Bagh’s Modern Public School, 38 children out of an expected 385 turned up. Principal Alka Kapur said the school has divided students on an odd-even basis according to their roll numbers. 

“As of today about 10 per cent of the even number of students turned up. We are following all the required Covid protocol and ensuring that all students have access to the blended model of learning that we have created,” she said.

Also read: Ensure all teachers are vaccinated with at least one dose by Sept, Modi govt tells states, UTs

Issues hindering class attendance

A parent who did not wish to be named said sending children to school seemed tricky due to the rains and lack of conveyance.

“Dropping and picking up children on our own is problematic for working parents as a lot of offices have opened up. Public transport does not seem like a safe option right now and not all parents are okay with car pooling,” she said.

“Even if the school provides buses, it seems like a rather risky move at the moment, add to that the rainy weather. Children can fall prey to all kinds of diseases,” she said.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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