Published: 02nd September 2021
Fifty to seventy students were cramped up in a single classroom in one government school of Chennai as schools reopened
On the brighter side, Express visited a dozen other government schools, some with a strength of more than 2,000 students (Class 9 to Class 12), but SOP violation was not witnessed anywhere
It was an ironic sight at the Government Higher Secondary school in Chennai's Velachery on Wednesday, which had more than 50 students cramped up in a single classroom against the orders of the State government. Notably, the institution has the highest strength of students studying in a co-education government school in Chennai.
When Express visited the school on Wednesday, the entrance looked perfect with hand sanitisers in a corner and only 20-25 students in a classroom, all wearing masks. However, the school had a strength of 600 students in Class 10 and Class 12 and only about 200 students were seen on the ground floor.
Upon speculation, when this reporter visited the first and second floors, the scene was totally contradictory. At least 50 to 70 students were cramped up per classroom and most of them had masks below their noses because it would obviously get suffocating sitting amid so many students wearing a mask. At least three students sat on a single bench, right beside each other. All of the classrooms on both floors blatantly violated COVID norms.
Permitting the re-opening of schools for Class 9 to Class 12, the school education department has advised schools to follow social distancing by permitting only 20 students per classroom. Necessary arrangements have to be made to conduct classes on alternate days on a rotational basis if there are no additional classrooms to accommodate 20 students in a classroom, according to the standard operating procedure. When a staff member was asked about the situation, he said, "There are 36 classrooms for 600 students. We had no other option. Even if we found a place, there are not enough teachers to take classes." So classes were divided into two—boys and girls. Irrespective of whatever the number was, all of them had to sit in one classroom.
A student on condition of anonymity said, "It is difficult to wear mask for more than half an hour. In some classes, some students were made to sit on the floor as space is not sufficient. It is scary." The school principal did not comment much about the situation and just accepted that they had no other option. On the brighter side, Express visited a dozen other government schools, some with a strength of more than 2,000 students (Class 9 to Class 12), but SOP violation was not witnessed anywhere. The concerned official could not be contacted despite several attempts. Another official in the school education department said all arrangements had been made to accommodate only 20 students per classroom and complaints can be registered on the education helpline, 14417.