Published: 12th November 2020
As TN Govt mulls over reopening of educational institutions, students worry about transport
As many as 23 lakh students in the State used public buses to get to educational institutions before the lockdown
While the State government is seriously mulling the reopening educational institutions, students and teachers worry if Tamil Nadu's transport system is currently equipped to ferry them to classes every day. As many as 23 lakh students in the State used public buses to get to educational institutions before the lockdown.
College students alone constitute over half of that figure. A few lakhs more rely on the railways and other means of last-mile transport including share autos and mini-buses to reach their educational institutions and get back home. While the state government is reassessing its decision to open schools again, there is barely any reconsideration with respect to colleges. As of Thursday, the decision to reopen colleges on November 16, seems final. However, theAs many as 23 lakh students in the State used public buses to get to educational institutions before the lockdown government went back on its decision to reopen schools on the same day, new dates will be intimated soon.
Given the dependence of access to education on the transport system, stakeholders urge that the government strengthen transport facilities before reopening. For example, Ezhilan* is enrolled in class 12 in a school in Chintadripet, as he was relocated by the government to the Perumbakkam slum resettlement last December in the middle of the academic year. "Every morning only two buses went from Perumbakkam to Chintadripet and hundreds of students crowded it. It is a two-hour journey, but it is the only way to get to school," he said fearing that he cannot go to school without the bus if they reopened it.
"I want to attend classes. But I am also scared of getting Corona from a crowded bus. I will survive it. But I live with my 65-year old grandmother and she won't," he rued. While educational institutions can at best enforce social distancing norms within campuses, students are likely to go unmonitored at bus stops, railway stations, and the roads.
Speaking to Express, Tenkasi S Jawahar, the transport commissioner of the state said that even if educational institutions are reopened, all social distancing and disinfection protocols will be followed as stipulated. "We will not allow for crowding. The threshold of commuters has been set and will be followed strictly even if schools and colleges reopen," he said.
Currently, while a large segment of bus routes has been opened for the public, trains remain accessible only to government employees and essential service providers authorised by the government. If educational institutions are reopened without making necessary transport requirement, it will be construed as indifference towards the marginalised people, said Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary, State Platform for Common School System.
"Only buses are plying for the public now. Higher secondary school students and college students prefer only suburban trains as it is the cheapest mode of transport," he said elaborating that there will be overcrowding in buses if suburban trains are not functional. He further added that the reopening should be delayed at least two weeks after Diwali to prevent rapid transmission of the virus. Responding to Express' query on the state's preparedness on transport before college reopening Higher Education Minister KP Anbalagan hinted that even the reopening of colleges on November 16 is not final. "We will take a decision soon and announce it," he said.