Schools in Delhi to stay shut till end of October, says Manish Sisodia

Updated on Oct 06, 2020 08:04 AM IST

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, said that while all schools – both government and private – will remain closed till October 31, online classes will continue as usual, with teachers being told to mandatorily educate schoolchildren on mask etiquette and hand hygiene at the beginning of every session.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia(PTI photo)
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia(PTI photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

All schools in the national capital will remain closed for the rest of the month, the Delhi government said on Sunday, days after the Centre’s guidelines to ease nationwide restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic announced that states and Union territories were free to open such educational facilities in a graded manner beginning October 15.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, said that while all schools – both government and private – will remain closed till October 31, online classes will continue as usual, with teachers being told to mandatorily educate schoolchildren on mask etiquette and hand hygiene at the beginning of every session.

Educational institutes have remained closed since March this year, when a nationwide lockdown was put in place to control the spread of the infectious disease that has infected millions across the globe and claimed more than one million lives so far.

More than six months after the Centre imposed the hard lockdown, the Union home ministry on Wednesday moved closer to unlocking almost all activities by allowing a graded restart of schools, partial reopening of movie theatres, and large gatherings.

The home ministry’s guidelines on unlocking activity said that the decision for opening schools and coaching institutions in a graded manner could be taken by the states/UT after October 15 “in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation”. However, if students preferred to attend online classes, they would be permitted to do so. The guidelines said attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent. Following the announcement, officials of the Delhi government’s education department held meetings to discuss the rules issued by the Centre.

The previous order of the Delhi government on the status of physical classes at schools, issued on September 18, said the institutes would remain closed till October 5.

“All schools in Delhi will remain closed till October 31 due to Covid. Chief minister @ArvindKejriwal has said that as a parent, he understands the seriousness of the situation. At this time it will not be appropriate to take any risk regarding the health of children (sic),” Sisodia tweeted in Hindi on Sunday.

Following Sisodia’s instructions, the directorate of education issued an order which also said: “...Online classes and teaching learning activities will continue as usual and heads of schools are authorised to call teachers/staff (as per requirement) for smooth conduct of online classes, teaching learning activities and any other work.”

Teachers were also asked to educate students on wearing masks, following physical distancing, and maintaining hand hygiene before beginning online classes. “Teachers to motivate students to convey the message to parents and relatives, Banners/Posters should also be displayed in the school premises to promote the awareness campaign in this regard,” read the order signed by Saroj Sain, additional director (school).

The decision to keep schools shut comes after an assessment of the Covid-19 situation in the Capital. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the city reported 3,037, 2,920 and 2,258 cases, respectively. Overall, Delhi has reported 290,613 cases and 5,510 deaths due to the virus till Sunday.

Some school administrators, however, expressed apprehensions over how the fresh order will affect the academic prospects of students.

Sarita Batra, principal of a government school in Shalimar Bagh, said: “This will affect the academic calendar and the students. But the life of children is more important. We are hoping that the Central Board of Secondary Education reduces the syllabus further since the closure of schools is being extended.” In July, the board revised the curriculum for students of classes 9 to 12 and rationalised 30% syllabus to reduce the course load for students.

Madhulika Sen, Education Advisor at Tagore International Schools, said that while the health of children was of paramount importance, not reopening schools could also take a toll on their emotional and mental well-being.

Ameeta Wattal, principal of Springdales, Pusa Road, pointed out that the closure of schools till October-end would not make much of a difference. “Schools were already slated to remain closed till October 15 followed by the Dussehra break between October 21 and 26. So, the closure of schools till October 31 doesn’t make much of a difference. We hope that there are fewer Covid-19 cases by November, giving parents confidence to send their children to school,” she said.

Ashok Agarwal, national president of the All India Parents Association, said: “The extension of school closures is being done in instalments, giving rise to confusion and stress among parents and students. If the Covid-19 situation is the same till March next year, they will keep announcing such repeated extensions till then. CBSE had reduced 30% syllabus, but now the closure of schools has gone on for far too long. Why not assure parents and children that they won’t be failed in this academic year considering the unprecedented circumstances and announce a zero year,” said Agarwal.

According to the Centre’s guidelines, for higher education, the ministry of education will decide on the timing of the opening of colleges based on the assessment of the situation. “However, higher education institutions only for research scholars (Ph.D) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/experimental works will be permitted to open from October 15,” the Centre said.

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