It's July, & still no clarity on school reopening
BL Soni

With no clarity at the start of July on reopening of physical schools in Mumbai, parents have raised issues of how and when will schools begin as online education cannot reach all. On June 16, Varsha Gaikwad, state school education minister, had announced in a video conference that separate SOP guidelines would be declared for reopening of schools in red zones but, clear directives for functioning of schools have not been released yet.

Parents claim the repeated delay in reopening of schools will postpone the academic cycle, pressurising both students and teachers to cope with the syllabus within a reduced time period. Sudhir Mistri, a parent said, "Considering the continuous extension of lockdown and rising number of COVID-19 cases, reopening physical schools in Mumbai does not seem feasible. But having said that, the state should initiate measures to reopen schools in phases or batches with safety measures otherwise children will suffer huge academic losses. Our children cannot afford to lose this academic year."

Online education does not reach every student, claimed Jayanti Mane, another parent. Mane said, "A recent survey of the state government itself reveals that 12.51 per cent students in Mumbai do not have mobile phones while, 3.58 per cent have no access to TV, radio or mobile phones. How can the government start the academic year by relying solely on online education when there are many students who are unable to access online classes? Some students are losing academic learning while their fellow classmates are studying via online education."

On June 16, Varsha Gaikwad, state school education minister, had announced in a video conference, "We will issue separate guidelines on reopening of physical schools in red zone areas. Schools can conduct online classes as there are high number of coronavirus cases in red zones. While, physical schools in coronavirus free areas and green zones can be started in phases starting from July after thorough checks by local authorities."

Till now, the state has released a govenment resolution (GR) dated June 24, 2020 directing relaxations for teachers in schools in red zone areas. But the state government has not declared clear directives for functioning of physical schools, claimed a principal of a Dadar school. The principal said, "We do not know when physical schools will reopen. Secondly, if the state plans to start schools then are we supposed to call students in batches? Do we have to make additional space by converting unused rooms into classrooms? Will we have sports and extracurricular activities? There are several questions and it is high time that the government should pay attention to red zones where children need to attend physical schools."

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