Delhi reopens schools from today for classes 9-12 after nearly 1.5 years amid strict safety protocol due to the pandemic. The decision could not be delayed any further, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said today, as “an entire generation would otherwise suffer a knowledge gap”. The colleges, universities and coaching institutes are also reopening amid concern over a third Covid wave.
Vaccination of teachers, 50 per cent seating capacity in classrooms, lunch breaks in open area and the adherence to social distancing norms are some of the aspects being focussed as the state government tries to keep students and teachers safe.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, said, “Schools have been shut from the last 1.5 years. Students have suffered a lot. We all are concerned about their health… but also about their studies. When we sought suggestions, we found that 70 per cent parents wanted the schools to open. A large number of parents insisted on the adherence to protocol. While experts told us that we could go ahead and reopen primary schools too, because younger children are at less risk, we thought of starting with classes 9 to 12.”
For the students who have lost a critical year due to the pandemic, the Delhi government plans to run bridge courses. “Pandemic has thrown a lot of challenges our way. Students have already suffered a lot. It may be called a risky decision but the students are already at risk by not being able to access adequate resources they need. Now that Delhi is seeing 30-35 Covid cases every day, we can afford to go ahead with the move. If this decision was delayed any further, an entire generation would suffer a knowledge gap.”
While some states are seeing a rise in positivity rate among children as they return to school, Mr Sisodia said the Delhi administration is “alert”. “Even as we follow social distancing and other norms, we have told parents too to make students understand the importance of following Covid norms. Barring some, most states have a positive feedback. As far as going back on the decision is concerned, we can decide to shut schools again in half an hour… it doesn’t require as much preparation as opening the schools.”
The staggered timings and shifts are likely to continue for some time, he further said.
India’s second wave had hit the Delhi hardest, leaving a grave impact on children – they saw their parents losing jobs; many of them lost their parents.
To deal with the baggage, the Delhi government has made sure that all schools ensure open conversations with students to help them get back to their routines and ensure their overall mental health.
“Pandemic has left a deep impact on many children and officials have been told to hold healthy conversations with children and not just focus on studies. The baggage has to be unloaded undoubtedly. It’s a part of their grooming. We have ensured that in every school, students are given a platform to talk it out,” Mr Sisodia elaborated.
On the first day, as the city witnessed heavy rain, students were seen all masked up – carrying umbrellas – headed to their classrooms. The strength is likely to increase in coming days.