Updated: August 29, 2021 9:48:23 am
Seven year-old Jyoti Kumari and her group of friends play in a park close to their homes in Zamrudpur on Saturday afternoon, running up and down the stairs of the slide.
Jyoti leaves for tuition classes at 3 pm every day, except Sundays. While schools in Delhi are set to open for classes 9 to 12 from September 1, and it has been recommended that they also be reopened for classes 6 to 8 from September 8, there is no word so far on plans for younger children like Jyoti.
“After reviewing the situation in the two phases, the Directorate of Education may take the decision of opening the schools for primary and pre-primary classes in the third phase,” state the recommendations of a committee formed to look into the matter.
“I do the worksheets I get from school on my father’s phone with the help of our landlady,” said Jyoti. “But I don’t know how to understand what I’m reading.”
She studies in class III in a municipal corporation school, and her father works as a scrap collector.
Her classmate Nishi says she cannot remember what going to school was like.
With these children having been away from school since March 2020 without a single day of offline school activities, parents of those in government and municipal corporation schools are eager for classes to resume soon.
“My son has been promoted to Class 4 now after one and a half years without school, but I’m afraid that it will be too much of a burden for him; he doesn’t know his reading and numbers. His sister in Class 9 is doing his worksheets for him now. I think every parent wants their child to return to school now,” said Raju, who works as a tailor and whose son Alishan studies in a Delhi government school.
Teachers, too, say that they urgently feel the need for young children to return to the classrooms, and that they are regularly fielding questions from parents on this.
“Parents come to school and ask me about when their children can come to school but I tell them this can only be decided by the government, it’s not in our hands. I hope that after schools open for class VI-VIII, by the end of September, we can have our students back. These small children are the ones losing out the most. What online teaching can you do for a student of class I, who has not learnt to recognise alphabets and numbers? Their base is not being formed,” said a teacher in a municipal corporation primary school in North Delhi.
Last month, ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava had recommended that primary schools be opened before secondary schools, pointing to these children’s ability to handle viral infections better, but most states have opted to begin with bringing older children back to school first.
“I’m sure that schools will restart for younger children. The government is just being cautious because Delhi has been the hub of problems in the last wave. In Haryana, we’ve begun with creative camps for children of classes 3, 4, 5. We’re not immediately getting into learning, we are starting with some socialising activities, art and music, so that kids start feeling a sense of relaxation among each other,” said educationist Dr Ameeta Wattal, chairperson and executive director, DLF Foundation Schools and Scholarship Programmes.
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