In a recent meeting with officials of the Department of School Education, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy reviewed the conditions in schools and the challenges ahead. He asked the officials to take stock of the COVID-19 pandemic situation and explore the possibility of reopening schools, including the primary sections, tentatively from the first week of February.
Students of Upper Primary and High School are already attending physical classes from November in a staggered way. In adherence to COVID-19 guidelines that mandate social distancing besides wearing of masks, use of sanitisers and other precautions, students of Classes 6 and 8 visit schools for classroom teaching on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while those from Classes 7 and 9 attend physical classes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Students of Class 10 have regular half-day classes.
To streamline the education system in the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic scenario, a mobile application to monitor students’ attendance in school, providing access to teachers and parents to maintain a regular check, will be in place. If a student is absent, a message will go to the parents and a prolonged absence will be reason enough for the welfare assistants in village/ward secretariats to enquire about their health and do the needful.
Unlike the neighbouring Telangana where the government has decided not to reopen schools for Classes 1 to 5 for the academic year 2020-21, A.P. has no such plans given the remarkable decline in the number of COVID infections.
Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh had announced much before the vaccination drive started, about starting regular/offline classes for the students of all classes post-Sankranti. Schools across the country were closed since mid-March to ensure safety of the student community in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus. The Union government permitted reopening of schools in phases after October 15, leaving the timing and manner of reopening on individual States.
Trying to find an opportunity in the COVID-19 challenge, the school education authorities moved to online space and created platforms to ensure that students found access to classroom lessons. We intend to continue ‘hybrid’ (a mix of online and offline) classes even in future and leave the choice to students till we completely overcome the pandemic situation, the Minister has said on a few occasions.
Changes in functioning
There is no official announcement of the date, but the government is interested in running regular classes for students of primary sections also (Classes 1 to 5), says P. Pratap Reddy, Director of A.P. State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and adds that a suitable mechanism will be evolved to ensure children’s safety. Avoiding crowd, a water bell at frequent intervals, prayer in the classrooms, use of masks and sanitisers will continue, he says.
Classes will continue till April 30 and students will write exams in May. Though the syllabus is being reduced by nearly 35%, students are asked to learn everything at home for their own knowledge.
Fears of parents
While most students can’t wait to return to their school, parents are divided, for different reasons. I can’t think of sending my child to school till a substantial part of the local population has been vaccinated. We have waited this long keeping our children away from school, why hurry now? says Prasanna Ramaswamy, mother of a 10-year-old.
Ananya Mahajan is deeply concerned about the increase in screen time of her sixth grader son. He is spending more time in front of the screen and with no online safeguards in place, I fear he may digress to non-educational ‘inappropriate’ content, says Viha Chowdary, a concerned mother, who can’t wait for schools to reopen.