Parents across India are witnessing a great dilemma with several state governments directing the reopening of schools in their territories. While classes from IX to XII have resumed in some states, the remaining states are opening the schools from September 1.
The schools and state governments claim that they have made special arrangements in the schools to ensure Covid-19 protocols are being followed strictly. These include vaccination of complete school staff on premises along with staggered attendance.
Manju Rana, Principal-cum-Director of Ghaziabad-based Seth Anandram Jaipuria School says the decision to reopen the schools for senior classes was a much-awaited move from the state government.
"It reflects the forthcoming positive times," Rana said. "We are welcoming students to break the mundane cycle of remote learning while ensuring complete Covid safety protocols on campus and maintaining social distancing with mandatory temperature check," she added. The principal insisted that reopening schools will help students to resolve doubts, refocus on weak areas, polish their strengths, get acquainted with hands-on practical training to help them warm-up for term exams while bridging learning gaps. "Above all, the entire school fraternity is pleased with the return of the pulse and heart of the school campuses," Rana added.
Her views are echoed by another school principal Mamta Kapoor. Kapoor is the director of Khaitan Public School in Ghaziabad. Speaking to Outlook, Kapoor said that Covid-19 has led to an unprecedented amount of learning loss for the students. They are not only suffering from a lack of social skills but there is an increase in impact on their mental health and emotional well-being too. "Although there are several critics on the re-opening of schools, we at KPS have taken some bold decisions on opening our schools slowly, with strict protocols in place for Covid. All over the world, schools have started opening with sanitization rules, mask mandates and social distancing. At KPS also, the school administration has been working round the clock to ensure all health and safety guidelines issued by the government are met," Kapoor said.
While the principals and school managements are hailing the decision, parents are still reeling under the dilemma.
Ghaziabad-based Soumitra Misra, father of two kids - one in the 11th and the other in the 7th - said, “The pandemic is still not over. School authorities should not force the parents to send their wards now. The last time when schools tried to open, they provided the options of both online and offline classes. But this time they have made it mandatory, and have announced that there will be no online classes. In that case, what will a parent who still doesn't want to send their wards to schools at the moment do?
A worried Misra whose children study in DAV school, also asked why the schools had been charging full fees schools for the past year despite not functioning physically due to the pandemic. "And parents are paying also. So what's the problem in providing online classes for a few more days like they did last year?”
Another resident of Noida, Sharmila Bhowmick mother of an 11-year-old says, “I will wait for a few more months before sending my child to school because her schedule currently is completely based around online classes. Her school, tuition and hobby classes run back to back and I do not suddenly want to disrupt the flow. Additionally, schools have to ensure the safety of the children. The school buses are not plying yet, so how will the schools regularise commute? If we have waited until August we should wait for a few more months and then send the kids to school that too in small batches in the next session.”
However, there are parents who are keen to send kids to school as they fear that kids have already suffered a lot being secluded in an environment without friends and peer learning.
Gurgaon-based Santosh Badhei and father of a 4-year-old daughter is keen to send her daughter to school. “These initial learning years are very important for the all-around development of children. Peer learning and hands-on experience is a must for the understanding of certain concepts. A year is already gone and I do not want to waste another. Covid-19 is something we all are now learning to live with. The kids are also adapting to the new environment. Even in April when her school was planning for an opening, I had given consent,” Badhei said. His daughter Charvi goes to Heritage Xperiential Learning School in the city and studies in nursery class. Badhei adds that schools will also work responsibly. They can work out different methods like alternative physical classes for students, hybrid modes of learning, etc.
“I had written an email to the principal of my son’s school to at least start the senior classes in a stagger or hybrid format," Delhi-based Sayani Bose told Outlook. "I suggested that the school can start with practical classes for the senior students and conduct the exams of the students in shifts. But they refused, stating they will do it only if Delhi govt gives permission for the same and that they need the consent of all the parents. A survey of the parents' consent was conducted in the school and only 40 per cent of them agreed to with the decision to reopen the schools in September.” Sayani added. Her son is currently studying in Class XII.