Back to School: TN, Telangana, Delhi among major states to reopen schools. How was the first day?

There have been many discussions and debates about the adverse effects of online classes and how the lack of peer interaction affects not just the education but the well-being of the kids
Students back to classrooms (Pics: Express)
Students back to classrooms (Pics: Express)

Getting back to school was probably never this eventful and relieving. As schools reopened in six states today, students had the option to head back to classes after a long break. Schools in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura and Delhi reopened on Wednesday, September 1, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. Other than these states, Uttar Pradesh resumed classes for primary schools from September 1. 

Offline teaching for Classes 9 to 12 in Tamil Nadu resumed on Wednesday after a gap of five months. Students returned to classes and were allowed entry upon thermal screening and provision of hand sanitisers while the face-mask rule has been made mandatory, officials said. There have been many discussions and debates about the adverse effects of online classes and how the lack of peer interaction affects not just the education but the well-being of the kids. As classes start again, children will not only be getting back to school but to their friends as well.

But not every student was that lucky. Rain marred the day for students in Delhi. Wearing masks and carrying umbrellas as heavy rains lashed Delhi, students of classes 9-12 returned to schools. Some institutions, however, chose to adopt a wait-and-watch approach and have decided to call children for physical classroom studies only after a few weeks. "I am excited on meeting my friends," a Delhi government school student from east Delhi said, adding that with COVID-19 still around, everybody has to take precautions. "This is the new normal and we will have to adjust," the student said.

The Telangana High Court on Tuesday finally permitted the reopening of schools from September 1 while staying the physical reopening (starting of offline classes) of government residential schools. The High Court also directed that no child studying in any class shall be compelled by any school management to physically attend offline classes if his or her parent is not inclined to send the child to school.

Even though the students might be back to class, not all teachers will be coming to school daily, said Satvika Nalam who teaches Chemistry at St Albert's High School, Hyderabad. She said that the teachers will be taking the classes online and the students in school will access the video through a projector. “The teachers are not all coming to the school daily either. They will be taking classes online because not all students are required to come to class. Those in the classrooms can access it via a projector, and there will be a teacher in class to monitor them. The students might be distracted initially because they are meeting their friends after a long time, but they will eventually settle down. We have to do this to make sure they stay safe.”

Nagati Narayana, President of the Telangana Parents Association said, “On behalf of TPA, I welcome the HC direction. There is no problem with reopening schools subject to COVID-19 protocol and SOP. However, there is a million-dollar question about the lack of non-teaching staff such as sweepers and cleaners in government schools. A few of them don’t even have a single cleaner. They don’t even have someone to ring the school bell. This raises concerns about sanitation. Even the principals and teachers have complained that there is no one to clean the premises including the toilets. How can we be assured of safety in such a scenario?" he asked. “The concern for private schools is that they had to lay off teachers during the pandemic, and they are now facing a shortage of staff. They want to call the teachers back, but the staff are scared of the possible third wave, which, if it happens, might cost them their jobs again. Our demands for the government right now is that they either appoint non-teaching staff to the government schools or release funds to them so they can employ temporary measures to keep the schools clean and sanitised.”

The Rajasthan government too allowed physical classes in schools for students from September 1. Anu Chaudhary, Principal of Mahatama Gandhi Government School, Mansarovar in Jaipur told the media that everyone is very excited to get back to class. "It is a very good decision by the government to reopen the schools for Classes 9 to 12. Both children and teachers are very excited to come back to school," she said. 

Students are happy to come back to school as well. "Physical classes are better than online classes as we can clear our doubts easily here. I am feeling happy to come back to school after the lockdown," said a Class 9 student of the same school.

A school principal from Uttar Pradesh's Lukhnow said that primary school students are excited as well to get back to school. "We see a lot of enthusiasm in students to attend physical classes after a long time," said Deepali Gautam, a Lucknow school principal.

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