HT Dialogues: Ways to prepare students mentally for the reopening of schools
Sensitisation and gratitude journals, mindfulness and strong monitoring systems were among suggestions made by experts at the HT Dialogues session on Thursday which focused on getting students mentally ready for the reopening of schools.
The session was attended by Priyanka Bhatkoti, principal, Maxfort School, Dwarka, Delhi; Deepali Singh Solanki, supervisor, BK Birla Public School, Kalyan; Rajesh Banopreeya, vice principal, MBS International School, Dwarka, Delhi; Sakshi Saddi, counsellor, junior wing, Air Force Bal Bharati School, Delhi; Dr. Rajesh Sagar, professor of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. The session was moderated by HT health editor Rhythma Kaul.
While schools across the country were shut since the nationwide lockdown imposed in March last year, they have reopened in a phased manner since January this year for senior students. “We are ready to welcome the students but are waiting for the cases to come down. We have a helpline for students taking the board examination students who can contact counsellors and special educators.” said Solanki.
Dr. Sagar said teachers will play a major role in the psychological well-being of children. “In my clinic, teachers are the ones who refer children because parents can sometimes become emotional,” he said.
Bhatkoti suggested practising mindfulness and encouraging students to maintain gratitude journals during the pandemic. “Every teacher will have to become a health professional and the existing health professionals will play a key role. Wherever safety is at risk, we have to be patient. Wherever it is safe and the conduct of students is responsible, we can take small steps towards normalcy,” she said.
WHAT THEY SAID
Priyanka Bhatkoti, Principal, Maxfort School, Sector Dwarka, Delhi
For playschools and preschools, where young children are accommodated, this may not be the right time to reopen and education there can continue in online mode. Senior secondary students who have to appear for the board exams and practicals need to be in school. All stakeholders need to make concerted efforts towards reopening. In areas where the vaccine has a healthy impact, schools can unlock for the students with complete SOPs.
Dr Rajesh Sagar, Professor, Dept of Psychiatry, AIIMS, Delhi
School is not a place for just education and learning but also socialisation and physical activity. We need to rethink how we can get back our students. As a psychiatrist I can tell you that being at home for one year has been too long. Emotional health and psychosocial well-being of children is being affected. We need to look at factors like the current upsurge of Covid-19 cases, local data, preparedness, and how confident parents are to send their child to school before reopening.
Sakshi Saddi, Counselor Jr. School, Air Force Bal Bharati School, Lodi Road
Students have evolved in the past one year and have gotten used to online learning. Refurbishing human contact will be of utmost importance when it comes to reopening. Joining in a new academic session has its own set of worries and excitement. We have to address an array of emotions that students will be experiencing and how we deal with it is going to be very important. As counsellors, we also have to be prepared and evolve as per the needs.
Rajesh Banopreeya, Vice Principal, MBS Int’l School, Sec 11, Dwarka, Delhi
Schools have to reopen in phased manner and parents should be convinced first. Communication has to be sent to parents that all SOPs are being followed and children are as safe in school as they are in homes. The role of a counselor is important as psychosocial issues of children need to be tackled. The academic gap will also have to be tackled as online education meant that students were not sure about subject concepts.
Deepali Singh Solanki, Supervisor Primary and Secondary, BK. Birla Public School, Kalyan
We are in one of the suburbs of Mumbai and right now cases are rising here. We are following all SOPs and are ready to welcome the students but this is not the right time to reopen school for all classes. The board students have been given the option of taking preboard exams in online or offline mode as per parents’ consent. When tech-savvy students come back to schools, our methodologies have to be engaging.