School vs Covid-19: Voluntary class option divides parents, teachers

The MHA’s Unlock 4 guidelines allow students of classes 9 to 12 to visit schools on a ‘voluntary basis’ from September 21 for academic help.
A teacher takes an online class from a government school in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)
A teacher takes an online class from a government school in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Aug 31, 2020 06:37 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Fareeha Iftikhar

Principals, teachers and parents in Delhi have expressed mixed views over the central government’s ‘unlock 4’ guidelines that allow students of classes 9 to 12 to visit schools on a voluntary basis from September 21 to seek academic guidance.

Many school authorities said the move, if implemented taking all precautions, will help students, specifically those who do not access to online education. But parents are still apprehensive about the safety of their children.

Schools across the country have been physically shut since March in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Classes are conducted online, and links to online study material are sent via WhatsApp, emails and SMS.

The Unlock 4 guidelines issued by the union ministry of home affairs on Saturday said schools will continue to remain closed till September 30.

At the same time, it stated, “Students of class 9 to 12 may be permitted to visit their schools, in areas outside the containment zones only, on a voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers.

This will be subject to written consent from their parents/guardians and will be permitted with effect from September 21, 2020, for which SoPs will be issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.”

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The guidelines said the states and union territories may permit up to 50% of teaching and non-teaching staff to be called to the schools at a time after September 21.

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Officials at government schools said students will benefit. Dr Devindar, principal of Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya (SBV) in Rouse Avenue, said, “It will be really helpful if teachers can hold sessions for students to clear doubts. It’ll be more significant for Board students since teachers have to brief them about the pattern of the exams. It is still unsafe to allow students of primary and upper primary classes to schools,” he said.

Government teachers said students who were not being able to attend online classes due to the lack of devices or internet facilities would get better guidance if allowed to visit schools.

Manish Bhatia, who teaches mathematics at a government school in Subhash Nagar, said, “For subjects such as mathematics, face-to-face teaching is vital in case of many students. I teach class 10 students and many of my students need extra attention since they do not have anyone at home who can help them in studies. It’s a welcome step to call students for guidance at schools with proper precautions. We are yet to hear anything from the Delhi government on this.”

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A senior official at the Delhi government’s education department said a decision may be taken on Monday.

“A meeting will be held on Monday to discuss the unlock 4 guidelines. The guidelines regarding schools will be discussed at length with all stakeholders. We will have to analyse how many schools are in containment zones,” the official said.

Authorities at private schools said majority of their students are already attending online classes.

Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Rohini, said, “Our students are very well-connected with their teachers remotely. We are conducting online sessions regularly just to clear doubts. But if the government directs us, then we will allow students to visit schools with all precautions. It’s anyway voluntary.”

Some private schools, however, raised concerns over the safety of students.

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Amita Wattal, principal of Springdales Schools in Pusa Road, said, “The school can keep their premises open, safe and secure. But the decision of sending students to schools totally depends on their parents. The schools won’t ask anyone to come because we cannot take guarantee of the safety of students amid the pandemic.”

Parents of both private and government school students expressed different opinions. Jai Prakash, a carpenter and father of a class 10 student at a government school in Vishwas Nagar, said, “I think it’s a good option for students if they want to go and clear some doubts. We had to arrange tuition for him since schools have been shut.”

Aparajitha Gautam, president of Delhi Parents Association and mother of a class 12 student at a private school, said she won’t send her daughter to school amid the pandemic.

Unlock 4: Some educational institutes allowed to open, states can call 50% of staff

“She is attending online classes and accessing online material. The guidelines can be significant for the students of government schools where majority of the students do not have access to digital education. But the question is how well the government schools are prepared. Also, the government should make sure that the private schools should not interpret this option as a reopening of campuses and charge extra fees from the students,” she said.

A few students HT spoke to had mixed feelings about the order.

Darshan Ram, a class 12 student at Bluebells School International in Kailash Colony, said his parents will not be comfortable in sending him to the school amid a pandemic. “Visiting teachers and the school on a voluntary basis comes with its own risks too. I don’t think students themselves would want to take risks,” he said.

Vaishnavi, a class 11 student at a government girls senior secondary school in Yamuna Vihar, however, said it will be helpful for her if she gets a chance to visit school even once a week. “It’s become very challenging to study some subjects like Mathematics and Physics with the help of online study material the school sends us on WhatsApp. I’ll definitely visit the school and get all my doubts clear if I get a chance,” she said .

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021