“At the beginning it was fun as it was like a holiday, but I never expected it to go on for so long. The enjoyment ended within a month and I started missing my teachers and school,” said Madhu, a class XII student at a government school in Mayur Vihar, while speaking to her political science teacher Sangeeta Raghav on Monday morning — the first offline class she had attended after 10 months.
Raghav had decided not to teach and dedicated the class to catching up with her students, counselling them on the months leading up to their board exams. Behind her, the blackboard sported drawings of flowers, smileys and welcome messages such as “I missed you so much my kids”. “I’m not good at drawing but I wanted to do the best from my side to make them happy and welcome them back,” she said.
Class X and XII students returned to government schools, and a few private schools, across the capital Monday, to a very different space. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet said: “Seeing kids back in school after a long time is an emotional moment for me. Schools have reopened today after leaving behind a very difficult time. We are hopeful that soon, everything will be normal and all students will be able to come to schools and meet their teachers and friends.”
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who visited Kautilya Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Chirag Enclave, tweeted: “Felt really good to meet children in schools after such a long time! They are still adjusting to be back in school with safety norms but are extremely happy to meet their friends! Teachers are also overjoyed to meet students…”
Turnout on Day 1
The number of students reporting on the first day varied from school to school. Mount Abu Public School in Rohini was one of the few private schools to reopen on Monday, and it saw a turnout of around 65-70% of class XII students and 50% of class X students. At Government Boys Senior Secondary School, DDA Flats Kalkaji, 78 of 147 class XII students arrived while 96 of 147 class X students showed up. At Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Mayur Vihar, 68 of 187 class XII students turned up, and in class X it was 73 of 220.
At Government Co-Ed Senior Secondary School, Chilla Gaon, principal Ajay Kumar has decided to call half the sections of class X and XII on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the other half on the remaining working days. Of the 206 students of the relevant class XII sections, 56 turned up on Monday, while 60 of the 152 class X students turned up.
“I am confident the turnout will increase by tomorrow after the children go back and tell their friends about their experience in school and parents hear of the precautions being taken. To build confidence of parents, I have sent a detailed message on class WhatsApp groups on our precautions as well as photos of the preparations,” said Kumar.
In most government schools, teachers sent photos of the parental consent forms on WhatsApp groups. The students copied the text out on their notebooks, got it signed by their parents and submitted these on entry to school.
New set up, New rules
At Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya 3, Mandawali, teachers stood at the entrance before 8 am and showered flower petals to welcome the girls as they arrived. The girls had their temperature checked at the gate and had to line up in circles drawn on the ground to wait for their turn to sanitise their hands. In some other schools, teachers had also placed disinfectant mats at the entrance for students to walk through.
Across schools, students found that they might not be in the same room as their classmates as sections were split into two, three or even four to spread them across multiple rooms.
Neeraj Kumari, principal of the Mayur Vihar government school, said: “There is one sanitation staff member assigned to each washroom to ensure only one student enters at a time. Students are to be in only one classroom for all their classes, and even eat their lunch in it. We have also assigned teachers to monitor different corridors at different hours to ensure social distancing.”
Schools have also set up one quarantine room in case a child falls ill. Kusumwati Shahwalia, head of the Mandawali school, has set up a bed with fresh sheets in what used to be the primary section library.
At Mount Abu School, since sports and outdoor activities are not allowed, a section of the currently unused school ground is serving as an isolation room. Sensors have also been installed in the washroom taps and the water cooler so that students can use them without physically touching them.
Said Madhu, a class XII student at the school in Chilla Gaon village, “One of the things I had missed the most about school was hanging out with my friends during the break and sharing lunchboxes.”
Unfortunately, she still cannot do that with student across schools now instructed on “no sharing”.
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