by Pankaj Yadav
NEW DELHI, March 29 (Xinhua) — The new academic year is around the corner in India, but uncertainty prevails over reopening schools amid the ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Asian country.
The number of daily COVID-19 cases registered was about 60,000 in recent days as the total tally crossed 12 million on Monday.
In January the daily cases had come down to below 10,000 and the graph continued falling over the subsequent weeks.
School students had just finished taking their annual examinations, conducted offline at most places, and were preparing to go to school for the new semester. But, the new surge in coronavirus cases has dampened their spirits with a uncertainty over reopening schools.
Lockdown was imposed in India from March last year. For a full one year school students have remained at homes taking online classes and term examinations.
Ishita Yadav, a student in Gurugram city in the northern state Haryana, was excited about attending regular school classes but is now concerned about the prospect.
The girl told Xinhua: “We were told that our school would reopen this year. I bought new books and sets of school uniform with much enthusiasm, and was so excited to go to my school after one year. I wanted to meet my classmates and schoolmates and enjoy with them in school environment. But I don’t think my school will reopen anytime soon amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.”
She added that in the last year she had been in touch with her classmates only through online modes.
“It has been one year since I last met my friends. Somehow, I and my classmates managed to pass the last year staying at home, but now it is taking a toll on us. I miss my school playground and annual picnic trips with classmates so much,” she stressed.
A lady teacher in a Delhi government senior secondary school said the Delhi government has directed all public schools in the national capital not to allow offline/physical classes for students of 3rd to 8th standards due to the pandemic for the academic session 2021-22.
Chairman of the Deep Memorial Public School in Ghaziabad, a town in the northern state Uttar Pradesh adjoining Delhi, Satprakash Singh said: “COVID-19 cases have once again started increasing over the past couple of weeks. We had just finished offline annual examinations, and were preparing to reopen our school strictly following standard operating procedures (SOPs) like arranging hand sanitizers, face masks and ensuring adequate social distancing.”
“But I don’t think we will be able to reopen our school in the prevailing COVID-19 circumstances,” said Singh.
“We managed to pay salaries to our staff throughout the last academic year from our reserves. But we are facing a tough challenge to pay our staff this year if the trend continues,” he added.
Deep Verma, owner of a school located in south Delhi, told Xinhua that the country passed through a tough time last year and everyone was quite enthusiastically looking forward to a coronavirus-free future in 2021.
“The rising number of cases every day has once again thrown a challenge before us. No one, either parents, teachers, governments authorities or the kids, is at fault. It is a particular situation that we all have to deal with. I personally don’t think it’s advisable to reopen schools in present circumstances, come what may,” he said.
According to him, online school classes seem to be the only option as of now. Citing some of the challenges, Verma added that the children of people belonging to the economically weaker sections do not have proper gadgets, like smart phones or laptops, to attend online classes.
“The government would really have to think about providing study gadgets to this class of school kids, in order to ensure that they don’t miss out on their regular online classes,” he said. Enditem