New Delhi: Only eight states and Union Territories (UTs) are on board with the idea of re-opening schools, as they have either already done so, or are planning to in the days ahead, the government told Parliament Monday.
According to a written reply shared in the Lok Sabha by Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Nagaland, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have reopened schools as of 2 August. Andhra Pradesh is likely to reopen schools by 16 August.
Among the Union Territories, only Lakshwadeep and Puducherry have re-opened for all classes. The rest have only allowed lessons from Class 9 and above.
Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are among the states and union territories that have not reopened schools as of 2 August.
While states are accessing their Covid situation at the individual level by looking at the test positivity rate and number of hospitalisations before deciding on school reopening, experts said that test positivity rate of less than 5 per cent should be good to reopen schools.
The MoE gave this explanation in reply to a question on “whether the government is in agreement with ICMR’s suggestion to reopen schools, particularly primary schools, since 57.2 percent of children between the ages of 6-9 already have considerable antibodies based on recent sero-surveys”.
In an interview to India Today last month, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences director, Randeep Guleria, said that areas with a test positivity rate of less than 5 per cent, should consider reopening schools.
Why it is better to begin with primary schools
Addressing a press conference last month, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) chief Balram Bhargav had said that, “once India starts reopening schools, it will be wise to begin with primary schools”.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had on 30 September last year issued an order asking states and UTs to take a decision with respect to the re-opening of schools and coaching institutions after 15 October 2020, in a graded manner. The parameters for re-opening and SOPs to be followed by schools were shared with the states after the order.
The SOP included instructions specifically meant for schools, students, teachers and parents. While schools were asked to maintain physical distance between students while deciding their seating plan, teachers were asked to change the way they teach students.
The guidelines said that there should be no assessment for up to 2-3 weeks after re-opening of schools and teachers should refer to an alternative calendar prepared by the National Council for Technical Education (NCERT) to teach children. The NCERT calendar focus is on making learning less about cramming and more about learning through experiential methods.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)