Nearly 15 students, one each per bench and all wearing masks, are being taught in their classrooms at Karmavir Vidyalaya in Chandrapur district’s Madheli village since July 6. The school is one of the many in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts in Maharashtra that have physically reopened this month.
On June 15, the state school education department had released guidelines for physical reopening of schools, allowing the district administrations to open schools for classes 9, 10 and 12 from July in areas that have not witnessed Covid-19 cases for at least a month. According to the guidelines, school management committees, along with the local administration, are allowed to decide whether schools should be physically reopened.
The guidelines are contradictory to a recent order by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that had stated that all schools in the country will remain closed until July 31.
So far, the school in Madheli village has started only for students of classes 9 and 10 — for three hours a day. At 11.20 am, students gather for a 10-minute prayer session, after which five periods are held without any break. “In case a child wants to eat lunch, she is allowed to go outside alone and return. We have divided our students into two batches of nearly 15 pupils each. Four teachers cater to the classes based on the timetable,” said headmaster Balu Bhoyar.
On the first day, the attendance was 50 per cent of the total strength, which increased to about 85 per cent the second day. The school has not made attendance compulsory yet, but expects all remaining students to join in the coming week. No parent will be allowed on premises.
For students of other classes, the school has launched the ‘Shikshak Vidyarthyancha Dari’ (teacher at students’ doorstep) initiative, where teachers have been visiting villages to teach children in open spaces, while maintaining distance. “We began sending teachers to villages from July 7 and have so far covered neighbouring Bori, Galka, Wadgaon and Pawni villages. The attendance was 100 per cent,” Bhoyar said.
A similar initiative has begun in the district’s Sindewahi taluka. Tulshiram Patil Dodke Vidyalaya in Naleshwar village reopened for classes 9, 10 and 12 after a green signal from the school’s management committee.
The village gram panchayat sponsored sanitisers for the students, each made to sit alone on a bench. “This week, we saw only 50 per cent attendance but we expect more students from Monday,” said headmaster Milind Rathod.
Sources said the school education department has not conveyed the MHA guidelines to the district collectors and education officers.
An official from the department said, “State and Centre’s guidelines are contradictory… it has been left to the local authorities to take a considered decision.”
Despite repeated attempts by The Indian Express, School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad could not be reached for a comment.
Chandrapur Education Officer Sanjay Dorlikar said that the schools have been following instructions from the district collector and are not aware of MHA guidelines. Over 50 of 2,507 schools in Chandrapur have opened, and more are expected to follow suit.
In Gadchiroli district, 170 of the 1,497 schools have opened physically. In Wardha district, over 50 of the 1,513 schools are expected to reopen physically from July 13. “On July 6, our collector issued a circular giving a go-ahead to reopen schools based on state government guidelines. Most schools are now preparing to welcome students and will begin classes from Monday. By the end of the next week, more than 100 schools may also reopen physically if conditions are stable,” said Wardha Education Officer Ulhas Narad.
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