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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Delhi: Amid rain, rules, students, teachers try to find their way back to class

Schools across the Capital were decorated with welcome posters and balloons to greet students from grades 9 to 12 who returned to class Wednesday, but apart from Covid fears, the heavy rain in the morning and waterlogging proved a dampener, pushing down attendance on the first day of re-opening.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: September 2, 2021 2:00:42 pm
Since September 1, students of classes IX to XII in Delhi have been permitted to attend school physically on a voluntary basis and at 50% classroom capacity. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

After more than 18 months, Arya, 14, went to school for the first time. She was restless and excited, she said, but was disappointed to find none of her friends had turned up.

Schools across the Capital were decorated with welcome posters and balloons to greet students from grades 9 to 12 who returned to class Wednesday, but apart from Covid fears, the heavy rain in the morning and waterlogging proved a dampener, pushing down attendance on the first day of re-opening.

Unlike government schools, most private schools in Delhi remained shut Wednesday, weighing the logistics regarding classroom seating and simultaneous online and offline classes, as well as assessing parent response.

Earlier, schools had partially opened for last session’s Classes 9 to 12 till April 9, and board year students were permitted to visit schools from August 16. But for those who entered Class 9 this year, it was their first day in school since March 2020.

In Arya’s Class 9 section, in a school in Rohini’s Sector 22, seven students turned up, wading through water. The science teacher walked them through concepts on compounds and mixtures that he had taught them in the online mode, and Arya was the only one who came up with queries.

“Our studies online were limited, we would receive videos and worksheets to solve. I studied by myself, watching YouTube videos,” she said. Being a government schoolteacher, her father was able to help her out.

In the same class, Sourav Tiwari (15) was having a harder time. “I found it difficult to study in the online mode. I didn’t like sitting in front of the phone, and honestly I can’t remember a lot of the things I learnt earlier, maybe because I was not getting that much practice with solving problems. I hope I’ll be able to catch up now,” he said.

Their science teacher Pradeep Kumar said he will be taking a step back and try working on their basic concepts first. “Within the first 15 minutes, I could sense the children don’t have a grasp on what’s happening. Only one student even came up with doubts. It’s okay if we lag behind in the syllabus, I need to work on forming their base. Unlike the board classes, we have more time and flexibility with Class 9 students,” he said.

Amardeep Dabas, academic coordinator at a government school nearby, said that over the next few days, they will ease Class 9 and 11 students back through orientation and induction sessions, speaking especially to the Class 11 batch about their streams and academic opportunities. Once they have settled down, the syllabus will be re-introduced to them, followed by a simple assessment to see where they stand academically, Dabas said.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the decision to re-open school for students of other grades will be based on the experience of this phase of reopening. “During this time, there has been a lot of damage to the education of the children… If schools and colleges are not opened now, an entire generation will move forward with a knowledge gap. We are in full alert mode and it will be ensured in all schools that Covid-related protocols and social distancing are followed… At present, schools are being opened with 50% capacity, but once these protocols become a habit among children, schools will be opened with full capacity,” Sisodia said.

He added that the government would consider re-opening primary classes, beginning from a limited set of 100-150 schools, but after assessing the experience with older children.

Under the Covid restrictions, students are not allowed to share lunchboxes, walk around with friends or play together in the grounds. Students must enter their classrooms without crowding, go straight to their specified seats, which are physically distanced, and stay there till it is time to go home.

By noon, most children at a Rohini government school admitted they felt restless confined to their seats, but still happy. “I miss the masti we used to do, but it’s okay. We need to follow the Covid rules for our own safety,” said Paras Gupta, 17, a Class 12 student, who has been coming to school now for two weeks.

It was the first day at her new school for Chahat Tiwari (13), who has moved to the government school in Sector 22 after having studied at a private school till Class 8. Sitting alone in a two-seat bench, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt since she has not yet received the new uniform, Chahat said, “I don’t know the names of any of my classmates yet, I haven’t even spoken to them because I’ve just attended some online classes. But some of them said ‘hi’ to me as we entered the class. I hope I can make some friends soon.”

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