New Delhi: In the new guidelines for ‘Unlock 5’ released Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has allowed the re-opening of schools and colleges from 15 October, but left the final decision up to individual states and union territories.
As a result, many big states have decided to keep schools shut until at least the end of the month, given the rising Covid-19 numbers across India, with only Uttar Pradesh opting for a phased re-opening beginning 15 October.
The decision to re-open schools and education institutions needs to be taken with the consent of parents/guardians, according to the 8 September Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines. The health ministry has already shared a detailed list of operating procedures with states and UTs, but states have been allowed to come up with their own guidelines as well to suit local requirements.
Meanwhile, on the re-opening of colleges, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said Thursday that his ministry’s Department of Higher Education may take a decision in consultation with home ministry, based on the assessment of the situation.
Guidelines for reopening of schools/HEIs outside containment zones:
States/UTs may take a decision in respect of reopening of schools & coaching institutes after Oct 15, in a graded manner.
— Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (@DrRPNishank) October 1, 2020
UP allows phased re-opening
The Uttar Pradesh government, in a notification issued Thursday, allowed the opening of schools in a phased manner, while maintaining consultation with various stakeholders and due permission from parents.
For the re-opening of colleges, the government notification states that Ministry of Education guidelines should be followed.
The state has, however, allowed Ph.D. and research students to return to campus for using labs and other research facilities from 15 October onwards.
Other states & UTs delay re-opening
While West Bengal has delayed the decision to re-open schools till mid-November, Maharashtra — which recorded the highest number of new cases in India Tuesday — has decided to not re-open any institution till at least 31 October.
In an official notification dated 30 September, the Maharashtra government has kept re-opening of schools, colleges and education activities under the list of prohibited activities till 31 October. “Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will remain closed till 31 October 2020. Online/distance learning shall continue be permitted and shall be encouraged,” the circular said.
Andhra Pradesh, another high-burden state, has also decided to defer the re-opening of schools till 2 November. The state had 59,435 active Covid-19 cases as of Wednesday, of which 6,190 cases and 35 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
Karnataka, which has over one lakh active Covid-19 cases, has not yet taken a decision on the re-opening of schools. Addressing reporters in the state Tuesday, Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, S. Suresh Kumar, had said: “Let there be no panic. The state government has not yet taken a call on reopening the schools. There is no thought on starting them in the near future.”
The state government, however, has released a set of SOPs for when the schools re-open. The SOPs include holding the classes in shifts wherever the strength of students is high, maintaining distance between students through appropriate markings, sanitising schools daily, and restricting sports activities.
The Delhi government, which had earlier decided to keep schools closed until 5 October, has pushed the date back to 31 October. In a notification released Wednesday, the government said that “status quo” for all prohibited activities in Delhi shall remain until 31 October.
The states and UT that had, earlier in September, decided to allow students to come in to seek guidance from teachers — Assam, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir — are undecided on whether they should fully re-open the schools from 15 October.
However, some of them are undecided on whether to fully re-open schools or not. J. Ganesan, Haryana’s director of secondary education, told ThePrint that things are “still at preparation stage”.
Sources in the J&K government also told ThePrint that no decision has been taken on the matter.
(With inputs from Madhuparna Das, Manasi Phadke, Rohini Swamy, Aneesha Bedi and Azaan Javaid)