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Low turnout in Pune district as schools reopen, worried parents keep wards away on first day

Worried parents keep wards away on first day, compulsory RT-PCR tests for teachers pending.

Written by Alifiya Khan | Pune | Updated: November 24, 2020 12:12:55 am
Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad schools to remain shut for classroom teaching till Jan 3The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has decided to keep city schools shut till January 3. (File)

THE STATE government’s decision to reopen schools for students of classes IX to XII was met with a poor response, as majority stayed away on the first day owing to the coronavirus scare. Even though one in three schools reopened, in many schools, teachers waited for students in empty classrooms.

Vishal Solanki, commissioner (education), Maharashtra, said 9,127 schools started across the state and nearly three lakh students attended classes.

The actual number of secondary schools in the state is 25,866 with 59,27,456 students enrolled in classes IX to XII. In Pune district, while schools were shut in city areas of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies, in the rest of the district, 215 out of 1,246 schools reopened, said zilla parishad education officer Ganpat More.

Most education experts said fear of the virus kept students away from school.

More also said 9,431 students were present, against 2.38 lakh-odd expected. He added that there were several reasons behind the low turnout, including confusion over guidelines and fear among parents regarding the pandemic, stray cases of Covid-19 emerging in villages and, in some cases, poor planning as schools reopened before mandatory RT-PCR tests were conducted for teachers.

“We started schools without any expectation of a turnout, so all of this is a learning experience. We are still getting the numbers from different pockets. Also, it is true that RT-PCR tests of teachers are pending, which will be done by December 1 for all. We expect the numbers to go up by then,” Solanki said.

A table shared by Vikas Garad, deputy director, State Council of Educational Research and Training, showed that there are nearly 2,75,470 teachers and 96,666 support staff in schools across the state, who are expected to undergo Covid-19 testing. Out of this, only 1,41,720 teachers have undergone testing, and 1,353 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As many as 44,313 staffers have been tested, out of which 290 tested positive.

Most education experts said while fear of the virus kept students away from schools, in many parts of the state, compulsory RT-PCR tests for teachers meant that schools could not open since rural areas have limited testing capacity and teachers have been given slots for later dates.

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