TODAY -

Opening of classes, a desperate call of the students

SK Singh *



Consequent upon the invasion of CORONA-19 since mid-March this year, the greatest sufferer, among others could be the students’ community.

In the midst of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the pandemic, all institutions, more particularly the schools across the country, across the state were shut down. The closure of schools and colleges was of course a legitimate decision to control mass contact and thus stall the transmission of the virus.

Despite the harsh impact of the lockdown on the life of the common man, the economic and social dimensions of the people, its blow on the academic life of a student is insurmountable. Students left to self-study for around 6 months, despite the furor of online classes, video conferencing, online distance learning and such technologies, still need close consultation with subject teachers.

These measures are not and cannot be a substitute of explanations by teachers. It’s more unthinkable for students in higher classes where the rigor of the subjects increase manifold. In sum, there is indispensable need for students to seek clarifications from teachers face to face.

This essentiality is more pronounced for students in higher classes, as stipulated by the GOI, students in classes IX to XII. The rigor of science subjects, mathematics in particular is more pronounced in higher classes.

The indispensability of such face to face discussion or even explanation by teachers, therefore, in such subjects is absolute sine-qua non in the very start. This is again the very foundation for students opting for professional courses like, engineering, medicine and such technical courses. There cannot be a substitute as loads would be added in higher classes again based on such fundamentals.

Viewed from this perspective, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Director General of Health Services (EMR Division) dated 8 September, 2020 is a necessary initiative. It’s the SOP for partial opening of schools for students of classes 9th to 12th, on a ‘voluntary basis’, for taking guidance from their teachers.

The background cited was, “The GOI is following a phase wise unlocking of activities. In days to come, this would this will also partial resumption of activities in schools for students of classes 9th to 12th on a voluntary basis, for taking guidance from the teachers. This would be allowed from 21st September, 2020.”

In normal times, where schools were functioning as usual, the word, “VOLUNTARY” in the matter of attending classes was nonexistent. Students had to attend classes regularly aall the time when schools were open; there was no question of students attending classes at will. Those of the students failing to report were imposed various measures including fines, punishments and all conceivable strictures.

The school authorities used to adopt all such measures to enhance school attendance. Why then, this clause, “VOLUNTARY’, attached now? The government is not prepared to shoulder responsibilities for students picking up the virus while attending such clarification classes.

Responsibilities apart, they are conscious of the implications on the event of picking up the pandemic; the dander, the risk always looms large and the GOI is not prepared for such an eventuality. They have to save their skin first and foremost.

The generic preventive measures reiterated by the Health Ministry, among others, are:-
i)physical distancing of at least 6 feet;
ii) use of masks is made mandatory;
iii) frequent hand washing with soap, now increased to double the previous instructions, at least 40-60 seconds or 20 seconds if alcohol-based hand sanitizers are used;
iv) strict adherence to ‘respiratory etiquettes’.

The element of caution, safe guard from the side of the GOI, in case of any undesirable fall out like contacting the virus from such schools, is pretty full-proof. The GOI does not intend to shoulder any responsibility from such an eventuality when students seeking clarification contact the disease.

That emboldens the government to insist on
i) Written consent of parents/guardians,
ii) Such attendance should be purely voluntary.
iii) Such visits must be staggered, not too frequent and all that.

Such precautions are absolute necessity. Schools authorities need to take care of the infrastructure including the logistics, the staggering of classes, morning and afternoon shifts to be planned to ensure compliance of the SOP. This cannot be a major problem. The news of private schools coming forward to open such ‘consultation classes’ is indeed welcome.

The United Association of Recognized Schools of Manipur to open classes from 1st October should be welcome, though with riders. They have to start slow with higher classes being accorded priority. Though few states in NER have announced such initiatives the GOM too need to think of well planned modalities on a pilot scale to avoid any casualty.

The risks are large and yet, the needs are equally big. Its time to take initiatives, strong, resolute and well thought. Any mishap could a blunder.

The call of such consultation classes for science subjects at the least, is becoming louder than any time before. The only reason: save students from further damage.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 01 2020.



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