Updated on: Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 11:56 PM IST

Mumbai: Parents, teachers furious after Maharashtra minister Varsha Gaikwad says schools may have to close down again if Omicron fans out

Mumbai: Parents, teachers furious after Maharashtra minister Varsha Gaikwad’s says schools may have to close down again if Omicron fans out | ANI

Mumbai: Parents, teachers furious after Maharashtra minister Varsha Gaikwad’s says schools may have to close down again if Omicron fans out | ANI


Maharashtra School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad on Wednesday cut a sorry figure as she had to withdraw her statement that schools may have to close again, if the Omicron variant fans out in the state.

Gaikwad, ahead of the beginning of the winter session of the state legislature on Wednesday morning, said that if the cases continue to spike, a decision to shut down the schools yet again may have to be taken.

The detection of 18 infected students at a school in Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai, ignited the buzz about closure of schools for Class 1 to 7, which had reopened only last week. The infected students have been kept in isolation.

However, Gaikwad had to eat her words in the evening and clarify that ‘‘there is no intention to close down the schools in the state. Both online and offline teaching will continue.’’

She also said that if there is a surge, the local administration is empowered to take a decision on the closure of schools, depending on the conditions there.

Gaikwad’s announcement on the closure of schools had evoked angry reaction from parents.

"Only parents should have the right to decide whether their children can go to school or not. Children will collapse if online medium of instruction continues to be inflicted on them. It is disheartening that anytime there is the slightest unease over the spike in Covid cases, the knee-jerk response is to shut the schools. We will be forced to take to the streets if the decision to open schools is revoked,” said the Parents Association of Mumbai.

Alok Gambhir, a parent, told the FPJ that "evidence-based research makes it clear that the drawbacks of keeping schools shut are far worse for kids than Covid and its variants. Every other government in the world knows that, and is doing all for the well-being of kids. Our government also needs to do what is evidence-based."

Another parent, Rohini Daftary, said that around the world, schools have been the first to open and last to close. "As of December 12, the rate in London for this age group (which has been badly hit by Omicron) is still 1.4 per 100,000. On the flip side, the harm to kids' physical and mental health by keeping them out of schools is overwhelming," she added.

While some parents furiously criticized any move to shut the schools, Jyoti Vakharia, Principal of MPS ICSE, Woollen Mills, Mahim, said, "If we get any government guidelines, we will have to follow these. Tomorrow is our last working day of the year and we will resume after the Christmas vacation. In the meantime, we will wait for any circular or guidelines from the government."

Ms. Kavita Chatterjee, Principal of Orchids, said, "The health and safety of the students has always been our prime concern. We opened the school for grade 8-10 following all Covid-19 protocols and were prepared and well equipped to open for other grades, too. With the rise in the Omicron cases, the school management is in a dilemma again. Whatever the decision and situation would be, we are ready to face the challenge yet again, but without compromising the studies."

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Published on: Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 11:52 PM IST