Mumbai schools to reopen on Jan 24
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said on Thursday that all schools in the city, including pre-primary classes, will reopen on January 24
MUMBAI: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said on Thursday that all schools in the city, including pre-primary classes, will reopen on January 24. Earlier in the day, Maharashtra government had given its nod to reopen schools across the state on January 24 and had empowered local administrations to take a final call depending on the Covid situation in their respective jurisdictions.
Mumbai guardian minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, “In line with the State Govt’s decision to let District Admins take a call on school reopening, Mumbai’s schools from pre-primary to 12th std will open with Covid SoPs from Monday, 24th. Keep the mask, and stay safe, while we can keep our learning going on.” Later, BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal confirmed that all schools in Mumbai will reopen from Monday. A detailed list of standard operating protocols (SOPs) will be issued soon, BMC officials said.
The state school education department had proposed the January 24 reopening to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who consented on Thursday, school education minister Varsha Gaikwad said. “The chief minister gave his consent to reopen offline schools for classes 1 to 12,” Gaikwad said. “Until now, pre-primary schools too were shut, but we have decided to reopen pre-primary schools as well. Wherever Covid cases have gone down, the schools will reopen from January 24. However, Covid-appropriate behaviour, the SOPs issued by the government must be followed by the schools.”
She added, “We are not talking about blanket reopening of schools. Local bodies are empowered to decide depending on the Covid-19 situation in the city or district.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday night issued a set of guidelines for reopening schools from January 24 (Monday).
In the circular signed by BMC education officer, Rajesh Kankal, the civic body said that parents who will be sending their children to school will have to submit a written consent letter to the school authorities. The guidelines also said that besides offline classes, online classes will also continue as per routine.
Furthermore the BMC said that all the eligible students should be inoculated with Covid-19 vaccines at the earliest by arranging vaccination camps within the premises of their schools. The BMC administration has also ordered that teaching and non-teaching staffs appointed for verification of Covid vaccination certificates at railway stations and other BMC offices should be asked to report back to their schools at the earliest.
The minister said parents’ consent is important. The government has requested parents to not send children to school if they are unwell. Schools have been told to ensure isolation facilities, in case any student shows symptoms.
Gaikwad said the department had received several representations from stakeholders to reopen schools, and the department has made the decision to keep the safety of children in mind. Offline classes in schools and colleges had resumed in December 2021 as the second wave of Covid-19 was ebbing. However, with a surge in Coronavirus infections in January, the state government decided to keep offline classes shut.
Besides the early signs of the third wave ebbing in some parts of the state, the growing pressure from various quarters to reopen schools prompted the nod by the chief minister’s office, officials said. “We received several representations from parents’ associations, schools, elected representatives, etc, to reopen schools,” Gaikwad said. “They all contended that the children are missing out on the social development, school atmosphere, interactions, etc. Our priority has always been the safety of children but as Covid cases are reducing we decided to reopen schools, and the final call will remain with the local municipal bodies.”
Meanwhile, the higher and technical education department is also planning to send a proposal to the CMO to restart offline classes in colleges. Uday Samant, the higher and technical education minister, said, “Covid cases in many parts of the state are going down. Like the reopening of schools, we will send a proposal to the chief minister to restart colleges in areas where Covid-19 cases have decreased.” Vaccinations will be made mandatory for eligible students to attend physical classes, the minister added.
While some schools and parents welcomed the state government’s decision of reopening schools for Class 1 to Class 12 from January 24, some were hesitant and apprehensive. “I think the right decision is been taken. The only problem is that the state keeps shutting and opening schools, which puts students in a state of confusion. Whenever I interact with my students, most of them are willing to join offline,” said Saba Patel, principal of Anjuman-I-Islam School, Bandra.
Educational institutes that completely shut down in March 2020 following the nationwide lockdown, reopened in October 2021. In the last week of September, school education minister Varsha Gaikwad announced reopening physical classes for class 5 to 12 in rural areas while in urban areas physical classes from class 8 to 12 started from October 4. Classes 1 to 7 started physical classes only from December 15.
Similarly, state higher education minister Uday Samant called for reopening of colleges in a phased manner only for fully vaccinated staff and students. All institutes were asked to adopt hybrid teaching mode until further updates.
However, all educational institutes were shut in January 2022 following the surge in cases.
“It is a wonderful decision, but I hope they do not close schools again,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal of Campion School. “Even if they close schools, the local body should take the decision based on the situation and there should not be a blanket decision implemented across the entire state. Covid is now a part of our lives, and we have to learn to live with it.”
Prajodh Rajan, CEO and Co-founder of Lighthouse Learning, said, “Closing of schools has led to developmental loss amongst children. We are very excited to welcome our students back, and all necessary protocols are in place for safe resumption. We will be allowing only fully vaccinated staff and teachers to attend our schools and initially, the physical classes will also take place in small batches to ensure physical distancing is maintained.”
While several representations from parents’ associations and schools demanded reopening, some schools and parents are still hesitant. Anubha Sahai, president of India Wide Parents Association, said, “It is too early. More than 80,000 children in Mumbai are infected with Covid at present. The state should decide on reopening colleges first.”
According to Rupa Roy, principal of Balmohan Vidyamandir in Dadar, “There is a lot of uncertainty. Every third person is unwell, including some of our teachers. We will take a call on this tomorrow (Friday).”
(with inputs from Pratip Acharya)