53% parents want schools to reopen, staff vaccinated: Survey
Several states in the country, including Maharashtra, recently decided to reopen schools
Several states in the country, including Maharashtra, recently decided to reopen schools. While parents and students are still anxious about this move, a survey of over 24,000 parents from around the country has highlighted how 53% of participating parents are willing to send their children to school. The survey also reveals that 74% of these parents feel that local administration should ensure the staff and teachers are vaccinated and rapid antigen test kits are made available at schools.
“In states where schools have opened in the last 30 days, the response has been mixed. In many private schools, physical attendance has been 50% at best. New Covid cases have been reported from Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Haryana, which has some parents worried,” said a report made public by LocalCircles, a community social media platform enabling citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy enforcement and interventions. The survey received over 47,000 responses from 24,000 parents residing in 378 districts of India.
“While 53% parents are in favour of re-opening of schools in August-September, 44% respondents also still maintain that schools should be conducted online until Covid cases are down to zero. Parents who are unwilling to send children to school for in-person classes cite the risk of festivals (Rakhshabandhan, Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi, etc) which could lead to a rise in Covid cases,” adds the survey report.
State school education minister Varsha Gaikwad on August announced that offline classes will restart for batches 5 to 8 in rural areas and batches 8 to 12 in urban cities following Covid-19 protocols starting August 17. This, however, is not the first time that such a move has been implemented by the state government. In November last year, the school education department had released a similar circular announcing the reopening of schools for Classes 9 to 12 in a phased manner. By January 2021, another circular was released directing students from Classes 5 to 8 to be brought back to school in groups, and maintain Covid appropriate behaviour on campus. Both these circulars, however, were revoked once Covid cases started rising again and the state government called for another complete lockdown starting mid-April.
Parent groups have been actively opposing the idea of physical classes, especially in cities where Covid-19 numbers are still being recorded. “International schools work with 40-50 students in one batch, whereas state board schools have anywhere between 60-70 students per division and in some cases, each grade has three to five divisions. Even if schools divide their batches into smaller groups and spread them across different classrooms, how will the teacher manage to teach all students?” asked Arundhati Chavan, president of Parent-Teachers Association United Forum. She added that before announcing a blanket decision, the state government should first try pilot batches and understand how physical schools could pose difficulties to schools as well as students. “Who will be responsible if one or more students contracts the virus? The state government has taken this decision on an impulse without even discussing the same with school-heads,” she added.
Previously, LocalCircles had also conducted another survey of 19,000 parents where 76% of respondents said they are not ready to send their children to school unless Covid-19 cases in their districts go down to zero, or all children are vaccinated first. In the same survey, over 65% of respondents had also approved that their children receive the Covid vaccine if it is made available by September 2021.