DDMA allows students of classes 10, 11 and 12 to return to school
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Sunday allowed students of classes 10, 11 and 12 to visit schools for admission and board-exam related activities, in what is the first easing of restrictions on educational institutions, which have been broadly shut since March last year due to the pandemic, in the Capital since the fourth wave of infections.
The state education department is expected to release an order on Monday detailing the guidelines and reopening protocol for schools and students, and these students can attend classes for these activities from Tuesday, if schools are prepared with the protocols, said officials.
DDMA issued the rules as part of a general order on Covid-19 curbs on Sunday that also allowed spas and weekly markets to reopen in Delhi, subject to their adherence to public health restrictions.
“Students of class 10 to 12 are permitted to visit their schools for admission related work including counselling/guidance and practical activities related to board exams,” said the DDMA order on Sunday, adding that the directorate of education will “issue appropriate guidelines” on the same to “ensure that Covid-appropriate protocols are followed and children’s safety is ensured.”
The order, however, specifies that all educational institutes in the Capital including schools, colleges, and coaching centres will remain closed and online learning will be encouraged in all circumstances except the exempted activities.
“Health checkup and referral services situated in schools or conducted from there [schools] can resume. Children of all ages may visit such centres accompanied by their parent or guardian,” the order also said. Several government schools have health centres for children.
Schools and colleges in the national capital have been shut since March last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Offline classes for students in classes 9 to 12 briefly resumed in a staggered manner between January and February before being suspended again due to the fourth wave of the pandemic in the Capital. Sunday’s order, however, allows only class 10 and 12 students to come for practical activities and class 11 students to come for admission-related work.
A senior education department official said, “Along with preparation for board exams next year, the Class 10 results have also been released, and students need to choose their subject combination to complete Class 11 admission formalities as well. The DDMA order allows students of classes 10 to 12 to return to schools immediately. So we will issue the guidelines tomorrow [Monday]. Schools can follow the guidelines, make necessary arrangements and call students from Tuesday if they wish to do so.”
A senior state government official on Friday told HT that deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia reportedly told a DDMA meeting that a significant majority of parents who attended a mega parent-teacher meeting (PTM) of government schools were in favour of reopening schools.
Around 90% of 800,000 parents who attended the two-week parent-teacher meeting were in favour of resuming classes, said the government official.
On July 28, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia also asked parents, students, teachers, and all stakeholders to email their suggestions on reopening of schools and colleges. HT reported on Saturday that of the 33,000 people who wrote to the campaign, 68% respondents wanted schools to reopen and 83% voted for colleges to reopen.
On Friday, DDMA decided to set up a committee, including officials from the education and health departments, to work out a strategy to reopen educational institutions.
Several states, including Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, have either partially reopened schools or are in the process of doing so this month.
With the Capital’s Covid-19 caseload at a nearly 16-month low, schools and parents have asked the government if schools will reopen for senior students soon. This is mainly because of the two-term board examination introduced by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) this year to prepare for an “unprecedented situation” arising due to the pandemic next year. The first set of board examinations for Class 10 and 12 students is set to take place between November and December this year.
While most government school principals are keen on initiating in-person classes for students, several private school principals said convincing parents to send their children to school amid the impending third wave will be a challenge.
Tania Joshi, principal of The Indian School, said teachers want students to come to school in a staggered manner due to academic loss and Covid fatigue, which is affecting their mental health.
“Some students are worried about their health, but others are confident of the Covid-19 protocols implemented by the schools earlier this year and wouldn’t mind coming back to school. Parents too have been non-committal because children haven’t vaccinated, and there are apprehensions of a third wave. Once the order comes in, we will formulate a policy and that might inspire some confidence among them,” she said.
Principals of government school also welcomed the move. “Calling students in smaller groups will be a good option since the caseload is low. We have around 900 students in class 12 and around 1,000 students in class 10 so care has to be taken to call these students in smaller batches. Children are often not able to grasp everything taught in online classes or even attend those classes regularly so it is a good move to allow them to visit schools and interact with their teachers,” said Sujata Tamta, head of school at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Molarband.
Not all parents, however, are confident of the move because children are not eligible for Covid-19 vaccine jabs, which in India are limited to adults.
“The decision is taken on the basis of responses collected from government schools where there has been no proper teaching-learning in the past one year. It is understandable that parents want their children to go to schools. But parents in most private schools are not keen on sending their children for in-person classes,” said Aprajita Gautam, president of the Delhi Parents Association.
“Private schools welcome the decision taken by DDMA. We are hopeful that the complete reopening [of schools] is being discussed and will be a reality soon. We all will together ensure safety of our students. We look forward to full and positive support by our parents,” said Bharat Arora, general secretary, Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools.