In Kapurthala, a group of class V students listened attentively to their teacher at the Government Primary School Bhagatpur on Thursday. As was the scene in Government Senior Secondary School for Girls at Ladowali Road of Jalandhar, where physical classes came as a refreshing change.
The excitement and eagerness of getting back to class was evident Thursday as government schools in Punjab reopened for classes V to VIII after a long gap of nine months owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier in October, the Punjab government had allowed opening schools for classes IX to XII.
Teachers said most parents were willing to send their children to school. As per guidelines issued by the government, children can attend class only after written consent from parents and physical attendance is not mandatory. Online classes will continue.
January 7 and 8 had earlier been announced as Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM) days for government schools in Punjab. On Wednesday, Punjab Education Minister VIjay Inder Singla had announced that all schools in Punjab including government, private and semi-government will reopen for classes V to VIII. Teachers said that on Thursday, most students arrived with their parents and were ready to attend physical classes Friday onwards. In some schools, classes started from Thursday itself. Students were welcomed with enthusiasm, while hand-sanitiser spray pumps were installed at the entrance and benches were marked to maintain social distancing.
Amarjit Singh Chahal, a teacher from government senior secondary school, Rangrial village of Mansa, said maximum enthusiasm was witnessed among the students of class VI as they were attending class for the first time after passing out from the primary section. “Nearly 70 per cent of our students from classes VI to VIII attended school today. We were not expecting such a good response on day one as some parents are still fearful of sending children to school.”
Teachers have their work cut out
Dharamjit Singh, a teacher from Ludhiana, said that as per orders, teachers now have to manage both offline and online classes. “For students who will still not attend classes physically, we will be providing online study material like usual via WhatsApp, Google drive, audio messages etc. We hold Zoom lectures once a week and mostly it is content sharing via WhatsApp groups. Syllabus is mostly covered and now revision will be done before final exams. Physical attendance is not mandatory.”
He added that teachers have prepared a ‘consent form’ which parents have to sign for sending children to school. The form mentions on behalf of parents that they will send their children to school only after making them wear a mask, follow Covid precautions at home, teach their child how to maintain social distancing, and that they are willing to send their child to school etc.
Ashok Kumar, a teacher from Daula village of Muktsar, said that the response from parents was overwhelming on the first day. “Most parents who came today to attend PTM said they were fed up with children being at home since nine months. Even children themselves are now fed up of staying at home and wanted schools to reopen at the earliest. More than 50 per cent parents are willing to send their children to school regularly now,” he said.
Rajinder Kaur, district education officer (DEO), Ludhiana, said that since the PTM was already scheduled for parents for January 7 and 8, it helped clear doubts of parents regarding reopening of schools. “Most parents showed their willingness and will be sending children to school now. Some schools held classes even today. Since the announcement to open schools was made on Wednesday itself, some students weren’t able to come today as they did not get to know about it. We are expecting better attendance from Friday.”
Most private schools in Ludhiana affiliated to CBSE did not open on Thursday for classes 5 to 8 and principals said that they need some more days for preparations and getting written consent from parents.
Low attendance in some areas
“We had 18 students of class V attend our school but only six students came today as we tried to convince parents to give their consent but they are worried and said that they still want to continue with online classes only,” said a teacher of Bhagatpur School, adding that after class, he will take online studies for students who did not attend class.
In Masoodan school, only 10 out of 100 students of class V came to class while not a single student out of 22 attended in Government Primary School Lal Kothi.
“Even if we get the presence of half of the students in physical mode in coming weeks our online class pressure would lessen because we can teach half the students in front of us and can solve their problems then and there ,” said another teacher.
There are teachers who have been taking extra efforts and have started taking science, math and English classes on ‘Zoom’.
Chander Shekhar, english teacher, state resources person and district mentor of the Padho Punjab project, said that in high and middle classes the attendance was 60 to 70 per cent in several schools where classes are already going on while primary class (Std V) and middle classes (VI to VIII) attendance was more in remote areas.
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