Eighteen months after remaining shut due to Covid-19 pandemic, schools in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra reopened yesterday amid emotional scenes. Teachers and non-teaching staff welcomed students with roses, chocolates, and other sweets to mark the day. On their part, students turned out in their crisp uniforms, lugging their schoolbags, in singles, double or in groups of friends, and waited patiently at the gates for their temperature checks and hand sanitisation before proceeding to the classrooms.
Shiv Kumar, one of the students FPJ spoke to, said he was happy to be back in the classroom with his friends. “Day 1 was more like an informal interaction with teachers and classmates. We were just trying to fit into the older patterns," he said.
School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad visited a few schools in Sion-Dharavi area and interacted with students in their classrooms. Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar also visited a few schools and spoke with students.
Following a government decision, all schools from Class 5-12 in the rural areas and from Class 8-12 in urban areas opened for offline classes from Monday. Most schools in Mumbai saw a mixed response in terms of attendance. Bharat Malik, chairman, St Mary’s School, Kalyan, and founder-member of National Independent School Alliance comprising 66,000 schools, told FPJ, “We are absolutely gung ho about welcoming back our students. As they are returning to the temples of learning, we applied a teeka on their foreheads to welcome them and distributed apples.” St Mary’s School, Kalyan witnessed about 40% attendance on Monday.
Neelu Lamba, principal, Hiranandani Foundation School in Thane, said that of 1,300 students enrolled at the school, parents of 540 students have given consent for attending offline classes. “The rest of the students will soon be back. Our teachers are elated to welcome students to the classrooms where a lot of learning and relearning is awaited,” Lamba said.
Simran Kaur Sohal, vice-principal, Guru Nanak English High School and Junior College in Bhandup, said she was surprised and happy to see students in good numbers on day one itself. “We had called 8th, 9th, 10th class students in school and the response was good. Nearly 60% students were present. The only problem I see is that if we continue to allow only one student on one bench, we will obviously face space crunch and staff management issues,” she said.
Eminent psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said that the state taskforce should conduct sessions in schools every week about the importance of following safety protocols. “There should also be dedicated helpline numbers for all schools and children and parents to tackle issues, doubts, etc,” he said.