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‘It is important that education continues’: BMC education officer Rajesh Kanakal

Pallavi Smart speaks to Rajesh Kanakal, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Education officer, on the guidelines for school reopening, steps being taken by the civic body to ensure safety of the students, and what the Corporation plans to do with the various online teaching initiatives it had started during the pandemic.

Mumbai |
Updated: January 23, 2022 8:13:55 pm
The preparedness of schools with all Covid protocol in place is of much importance, says Kanakal (PTI/File)

Written by Pallavi Smart

With schools in Mumbai set to resume offline classes from Monday, The Indian Express speaks to Rajesh Kanakal, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Education officer, on the guidelines for school reopening, steps being taken by the civic body to ensure safety of the students, and what the Corporation plans to do with the various online teaching initiatives it had started during the pandemic. Excerpts:

Schools are set to reopen their gates for offline operations. What directives have been given to them, and the parents, in terms of following Covid protocol?

The preparedness of schools with all Covid protocol in place is of much importance. But the consent of parents and responsible behaviour on their part plays an instrumental role in this. While we encourage parents to send their children to schools for in-person learning, no school can force it on them. But at the same time, parents should also ensure that their children are following Covid protocol and are not sent to school if they show any symptoms of the infection.

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How does the administration plan on ensuring whether schools are following Covid-appropriate behaviour?

We have asked local education inspectors to pay surprise visits to schools to check if all Covid protocols are being followed. They are also entrusted with the responsibility to resolve parents’ grievances if any school is making offline attendance mandatory. All schools will have to continue to offer an online mode of learning even as the offline system restarts. It is important that education continues.

There is growing demand that schools go back to old timings. Is it possible in the near future?

It will be a gradual process. Right now, all restrictions given in the guidelines are as per the current Covid protocol to be followed. Schools will begin with smaller duration and no group activities and food breaks will be allowed to ensure safety. In order to ensure social distancing, some schools may have to call children in batches. It is also important to help children slowly ease into the new normal. Now, pre-primary sections of schools in the city are starting and this would be the first time they would experience schooling since their learning began in online mode.

Some civic schools are still being used as Covid centres. What is the status of these schools?

Almost all our schools are back under the education department. There are only two such schools (being used as Covid centres) but the process has already begun to empty their premises to complete the sanitisation process before students can be called back on campus. The process is almost over at one. Another campus, in Byculla, is being used as an isolation facility for prisoners. We have already written a letter seeking to vacate the premises and the process has begun for that. Separate arrangements are made for students from these schools in nearby civic schools.

What is the status of the vaccination drive started by civic schools for their students?

The vaccination drive by us for our own students has really been successful. We had received consent for 24,000 students out of which 22,000 have already been jabbed. The focus currently is on encouraging those parents who have not given their consent. The vaccination has really shown results in the recent wave with not many requiring serious medical intervention. We are also in talks with non-BMC schools to help them with vaccination camps if required. In fact, the BMC Education department is in the process of creating content for the purpose of vaccination awareness. We are collecting experiences of children who have been jabbed to share it with others through our social media channels. The idea is to show others that the vaccine does not have any side-effects and the children who have been administered the vaccine are perfectly fine. The purpose is to ensure more children falling in the eligibility age-group for vaccines are covered.

The BMC Education department was running multiple YouTube channels amid the pandemic. What happens to this project now?

In the past two years, BMC has created 40 YouTube channels and has managed to create a complete library on all topics of all classes of state board curriculum. The Zilla Parishad Schools across Maharashtra are also using this for online learning. The recorded content will continue to be available for all school teachers whenever they need. But the live sessions will have to stop now for some days until there is new planning in the regard. But the project is to continue as school education is going through a paradigm shift.

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