Caution, relief as kids weigh return to school
The Delhi government’s decision to allow physical classes for schools students of classes 10 and 12 from January 18 received mixed reactions from principals, teachers, parents, and students, with safety still a matter of major concern for several stakeholders.
The students’ return to campuses will be “completely optional for parents”, and attendance will not be mandatory, the government said in its announcement on Wednesday. Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia tweeted that students can be called only with the consent of their parents, and nobody will be forced to come.
A senior official in the Delhi education department said the decision was taken in the backdrop of the CBSE announcing the schedule for its practical and board exams.
“It’s too early to comment on when the government will reopen schools for other classes. Besides, it’s optional, and students will be called only if their parents allow,” the official said.
Manju Sethi, principal of Bluebells School International in Kailash Colony, said the school will start calling students back in the first week of February after taking the parents’ consent.
“We will call only a few students a day to conduct practicals. Our students have already done practicals online, but we would like to give them the real experience. Some parents also want the school to conduct pre-board exams in person to give students written practice,” she said.
Several principals said the decision will be vital for students who need personal attention from teachers.
“The decision was essential to give students hands-on practice for the forthcoming CBSE practical exams. Some students also need more help from teachers, so it’s going to be very useful for them. Students will be able to get detailed guidelines and supervision from teachers for projects and practical files,” said Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Rohini.
To ease the students’ return to campus, some schools have already started initiatives to provide mental health support for those who need it.
Alka Kapur, principal of Modern Public School in Shalimar Bagh, said, “We have set up a counselling cell to provide emotional support to the students when they rejoin after a long gap. The school has also prepared a specific time table that will be sent to zonal district education officers for approval.”
Several parents and students, though, said they are still apprehensive, and preferred to “avoid the risk.”
Suman Sharma, a resident of Mayur Vihar and parent of a class 10 student, said, “Though the number of cases has gone down in Delhi over the last few days, it’s too early to send our children back to school. We still do not know how the schools will ensure the safety of our children. I won’t allow my son to go to school any time soon.”
Darshan Ram, a class 12 student at Bluebells School International, said, “Considering that physical attendance is optional, I won’t take the risk right now. I would rather wait and see how the school has planned everything and then decide.”
However, the response was decidedly different at government schools, where officials said their students would benefit significantly from the decision.
Awadesh Kumar Jha, head of Sarvodaya Co-ed School in Rohini, said, “Students and parents have been keen on this for quite some time. Many could not keep up with online classes due to the lack of resources.”
Parents of children in government schools said they will send their wards despite worries.
Atul Kumar Yadav, a resident of Gandhi Nagar and father of a class 12 student at a government girls’ school, said, “My daughter has been anxious ever since dates for board exam were announced. Although she has a smartphone and internet connection, we could not afford to arrange home tuitions. Now, she can go back to her school and clear her doubts with teachers.”
Experts said the risk of Covid-19 is low among children.
Jugal Kishore, head of the community medicine department at Safdarjung hospital, said, “Studies show that the risk of Covid-19 is very low among children. Not reopening schools for a long period can adversely impact students’ mental and physical health. Parents need not worry. It’s just that schools should take all the precautions prescribed by the government.”