Gurugram: With masks and physical distancing, students turn up for academic guidance sessions in govt schoolsUpdated: Sep 21, 2020, 23:15 IST
Students studying in classes 9 to 12 in government schools across the city visited schools for the first time in over six months on Monday for voluntary academic guidance sessions. Schools across the country were shut and exams suspended in mid-March when a countrywide lockdown was imposed to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19.
Voluntary visits to schools for clearing doubts for a limited time period were permitted by the Central government as part of Unlock 4 guidelines. As part of the guidelines, students of classes 9 to 12 are permitted to visit schools in areas outside containment zones for academic guidance with the written consent of parents. In line with the SOP that needs to be followed during these guidance sessions, teachers across schools need to get a negative Covid test report and have Arogya Setu installed on their phones. Only 50% of teachers are permitted to visit schools for these academic sessions.
Students’ visits to schools on Monday were unlike any other. Starting sharp at 8:30 in the morning, students wearing masks started trickling in batches of five as per their allotted time slots. Right at the entrance, they were asked to furnish the written consent document from their parents, subject to which they were given entry. While a security guard took the students’ temperatures, they were asked to sanitise their hands and register their attendance with teachers who sat near the entrance, all this while maintaining an optimum distance with the help of circles drawn on the floor.
Teachers sat outside the classroom for these sessions and no blackboards were used. Further, students were only permitted to go out for water breaks and washroom visits, one at a time.
Govind, an 18-year-old class 12 student at Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 4/7, said that while he was excited to see some of his teachers and classmates after months, an eerie emptiness surrounded the school. “The building premises don’t feel like school anymore. There is silence all around. On routine days, during this time of the day, our playground would be brimming with students. There used to be so much noise and cacophony. It’s unusually empty today due to the absence of routine student crowd,” said Govind, who goes by his first name.
Like most students, the commerce student was surprised when classes were called off in March. He had, however, not anticipated that the closure of schools would last for more than six months. “We were supposed to appear for our Maths exam when classes were called off. We kept thinking that it would take place soon but the day never came. Instead, a countrywide lockdown was imposed,” said Govind.
In the days that followed, his classmates gradually jumped on the bandwagon of online classes while he was left behind. “A day before the lockdown was declared, the phone at my house was stolen. I had no idea what to do. For the next two-three months, I lost complete touch with my teachers, classmates, and even books,” said Govind, who spent his days playing Ludo with his three siblings. Due to lockdown restrictions, he was unable to move out or seek books or any assistance from seniors and classmates. “Once the restrictions eased a little, I arranged for my teacher’s number and called him. He said that I was lagging behind by several months. I purchased books since I didn’t have a smartphone and started covering the lessons,” he said.
Monday’s visit gave him a chance to clear the doubts that he had in various subjects. A relieved Govind said that he was hopeful about covering up his missed lessons in the subsequent visits. “On an ordinary phone, it becomes difficult to understand complex concepts. There is disruption due to which one is unable to maintain concentration. It’s great that schools are finally allowing us to visit now,” he said.
With schools facilitating academic guidance visits, a ray of hope has emerged for many other students such as Govind, who continue to struggle with access to smartphones and other technological devices.
Rinki Sharma, a 17-year-old class 12 government school student, has been attending online classes via WhatsApp for the past six months. With only one smartphone in the house, she only gets a chance to study once her mother, who works as an ironer, returns back from work in the evening. “While our teachers readily explain things over the phone, sometimes there is a lag due to delays in accessing the phone. Hopefully, that should change with these visits,” said Sharma. Unlike her, Rinki’s mother was not too keen on sending her to school. “My mother was scared and skeptical since cases are rising in the city. But I convinced her somehow,” she said.
Suman Sharma, principal of Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 4/7, said that 49 students in class 10 and 52 in class 12 had appeared for the academic guidance visits on Monday. “Everything was conducted smoothly since we had created different slots and placed a cap on the number of students in each slot. Our school is quite big and different buildings were allotted to class 10 and 12 for the guidance sessions,” said Sharma, adding that many more students had shown eagerness for these classes. “Students were very happy and enthusiastic about coming back to school. Many more are waiting for their slots to come up,” she said.
Shyam Raghav, principal of Government Senior Secondary School, Bhondsi, said that around 51 students from class 10 and 12 visited the school for academic guidance visits on Monday. Raghav said that the school was expecting the footfall to increase in the coming days. “We are yet to receive written consent forms from parents in classes 9 and 11. Once that is completed, the number of students will increase,” he said, adding that the school had invited parents for a PTM last week to given them a glimpse of the sanitisation procedures in place. “Parents saw that thermal scanning, sanitisation and other checks were in place. This gave them the confidence to send children to school,” said Raghav.
Other schools that saw a tepid turnout said that many parents were fearful about the prospect of sending children to school. Asha Miglani, principal of Government Model Sanskriti Senior Secondary School, Sector 43, said that only two students had turned for the classes on Monday. “We had taken feedback from parents earlier this week. Parents are reluctant about sending children to school due to the spike in cases,” said Miglani.
Most private schools said that majority of parents were not in favour of children visiting schools at a time when the number of Covid-19 cases in the city were increasing. Aparna Erry, principal, DAV Public School, Sector 14, said that the school had no plans of calling students any time soon. “For now, we have not taken any call on school visits for children. Moreover, our online classes have been taking place smoothly” said Erry.
Kunal Bhadoo, director of Kunskapsskolan Schools, said that the school had sought feedback from parents but around 75% were not in favour of permitting these visits. “Initially, we had plans of calling those students who were willing to come for these sessions. However, around 75% of parents are not in favour of schools opening. We will continue with online classes as before,” said Bhadoo.