Back To Classroom As Schools Reopen Amid Covid Concerns

School Reopening: States have been given a month's time to ensure all school staff get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

Back To Classroom As Schools Reopen Amid Covid Concerns

Schools Reopen: Experts are of the opinion that children's in-built immunity will protect them from Covid

New Delhi:

Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana were among states that reopened schools today even as Covid vaccination for children aged 12 and above is expected to begin in October.

Amid concerns about the third wave targeting children, many experts are of the opinion that children's in-built immunity will protect them from the virus.

States have been given a month's time to ensure all school staff get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, School Education Secretary Anita Karwal said after a meeting with state education departments on Tuesday.

National capital Delhi, which bore the brunt of the second wave of Covid in summer this year, decided to open schools in a phased manner. The decision could not be delayed any further as "an entire generation would otherwise suffer a knowledge gap", said Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

Vaccination of teachers, 50 per cent seating capacity in classrooms, lunch breaks in open area and the adherence to social distancing norms are some of the aspects being focussed upon as the state government tries to keep students and teachers safe.

"When we sought suggestions, we found that 70 per cent parents wanted the schools to open. A large number of parents insisted on the adherence to protocol. While experts told us that we could go ahead and reopen primary schools too, because younger children are at less risk, we thought of starting with classes 9 to 12," said Mr Sisodia, who also is the Education Minister.

"Very happy to be back. Can't clear doubts in online classes, there are network issues. In offline classes, I can talk to my teacher face-to-face and clear doubts easily, said a student from Delhi's Kautilya Government School in Chirag Enclave.

Others were elated to be back with friends.

"I spoke a lot with my friends, sat together and read books while keeping social distance," said another student of the same school.

"My son and I were very excited that schools were reopening. So many things can't be done online. Social connectivity in offline classes won't suffer now," said a parent.

In Tamil Nadu, students returned to their respective institutions and were allowed entry upon thermal screening and provision of hand sanitizers while the face-mask rule has been made mandatory, officials said.

The SOPs include presence of 50 per cent students at a time. The government had mandated that schools should function six days a week and classes and sections have to be split into batches of not more than 20 students per classroom, according to the SOP, which was being implemented in the educational institutions across the state.

Online or distance learning will continue to be an alternate mode of teaching and students may be permitted to attend online classes if they prefer and those willing to study from home with the consent of the parents may be allowed to do so, the government had said.

In Chennai, the reopening also unfolded tragic stories. Around 300 students at Everwin School alone lost a parent to Covid, also there were disturbing stories of job losses and salary cuts.

"My mother a teacher receives only 50 per cent salary. Before Covid I used to go for Abacus and dance classes. Now, I am unable to go to these classes as our finances are low," said R Poojasree, XII student at Everwin Matriculation Higher Secondary School.

"We are giving 50% waiver, the government has asked us to collect only 75%. We further look at case to case and are working on economics," said Dr B Purushothaman, founder and senior principal, Everwin Schools.

In Rajasthan only students of classes 9 to 12 have been allowed to physically attend school, for the rest, online classes will continue.

Nearly 13 lakh children in Rajasthan have missed schooling in the one and a half years of the pandemic. These are children with no access to mobile phones or are in very remote areas with poor internet connectivity.

In Uttar Pradesh, classes will be conducted in two shifts in all the schools following all the COVID-19 safety protocols. The first shift will be from 8 am to 12 pm and the second shift will be from 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm. Classes will have only 50 per cent of accommodation at all times.

"You can never compare e-learning to what can be taught in classrooms...the change we can bring about in a classroom, we can never hope to replicate in online learning," said Poonam Mahajan, assistant teacher, Primary School Mohanlal Ganj, Lucknow.

In Meghalaya, schools and colleges have reopened for classes 9 to 12 in urban areas and 6 to 12 in rural areas.

Schools that were shut since last year ahead of the declaration of lockdown in March, got the green signal to open as the second wave of Covid abated.

The country recorded 41,965 fresh Covid cases in the last 24 hours, 35.6 per cent higher than yesterday (30,941), the government data this morning showed.

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