Thermal screening of students at Karad Municipal School.
Thermal screening of students at Karad Municipal School.

Mixed response as schools in Maharashtra reopen for Class 5 to 8

On Day 1 of reopening schools, some schools saw a good turnout of students, while in some others, parents were still not willing to send their children to school due to Covid-19 pandemic and related risks.
By Ankita Bhatkhande
PUBLISHED ON JAN 28, 2021 01:24 AM IST

Schools in various parts of Maharashtra reopened for Class 5 to 8 with a mixed response on Wednesday. While some schools saw a good turnout of students, in some others, parents were still not willing to send their children to school due to Covid-19 pandemic and related risks.

“While parents do want schools to reopen, there is a lot of fear among them while signing the undertaking forms as mandated by the state education department. On the first day, we only had 10-15 students in every class consisting 40-50 students,” said Balasaheb Chavan, teacher at KL Ponda High School in Dahanu, Palghar.

As schools for Class 5 to 8 reopened after a gap of 10 months, the students spent the first day getting accustomed to the safety protocols. “We had given masks and sanitisers to all students and had asked them to wear their masks at all times. Since the children came out of their homes for a long period for the first time, they were struggling to keep the mask on due to discomfort. We helped them in all ways possible and are hoping that they get accustomed soon,” said Somnath Walke, a teacher from a zilla parishad school in Pargaon, Beed. The school saw nearly 80% of the children attend the school on Day 1.

According to the standard operating procedures laid down by the education department, 50% students are asked to attend school on a rotational basis.

At Karad Municipal School in Satara, all the 500 enrolled children attended the school on the first day. “The school has divided each division into two groups of 25 each,” said Arjun Koli, principal of the school. Children were greeted with a rose to mark the first day of reopening.

The state education department is yet to share data on the total number of schools which reopened on Wednesday. There are over 106,000 schools with Class 5 to 8 in the state with nearly 8,000,000 students enrolled as per the data of the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE), 2019. Barring Mumbai, schools in most parts of the state reopened on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the state education department opened helplines for free counselling of Class 10 and 12 students on Wednesday. Students can go to maa.ac.in and access a list of 426 counsellors who will be available to solve their doubts and hear their concerns.

Parents to stage protest on Jan 30

Parents of students from several private schools across Maharashtra have planned to protest against the state government on January 30 over their demands which are pending from the past several months. The demands include action against schools for increasing fees or harassing children for non-payment of fees.

State representatives of the Indiawide Parents’ Association, a pan-India body of parents, have planned a demonstration outside education minister Varsha Gaikwad’s office. “Parents are really angry as none of their demands are met. While schools have hiked fees in the middle of a pandemic, the education department has not acted against them. Many schools are harassing children whose parents are unable to pay,” said Anubha Sahai, president of the association.

The association recently wrote to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) against the state government’s failure to act against private schools.

Parents said that despite complaints, the department has not audited a single school during these months. “We do not know what the entire machinery is up to. Parents are in a really vulnerable state and this government is facilitating private schools by not acting against them,” said the parent of a student of a Kandivli-based school.

A government resolution (GR) released on May 8 stated that schools should stay all fee hikes for the current academic year and have to allow parents to pay fees in instalments. The GR was, however, stayed by the Bombay high court on June 26 in response to a petition by several organisations of private school owners. The petitioners had argued that the government cannot regulate fees of private schools as per the current rules.

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