Updated: January 30, 2021 10:59:28 am
The Gujarat government on Wednesday (January 27) announced that school would reopen for Classes 9 and 11 on February 1. Private tuition classes for Classes 9 to 12, and private coaching classes for competitive examinations will also be allowed.
On January 11, the government allowed children of Classes 10 and 12 to return to school. Classes were also allowed for final year undergraduate students, and for students of postgraduate courses in both years.
The decision to now allow children of two more classes to return to school applies to all government, self-financed, and grant-in-aid schools across all state, national, and international boards.
It comes three months ahead of the annual board exams scheduled in May this year.
Attendance is not compulsory. But it is mandatory for all students who attend schools to submit a letter of consent from their parents.
What about other classes in higher education institutions?
No decision has been taken on the rest of the undergraduate classes. The government has said that a decision on resuming first and second year classes in colleges would be taken after analysing the report of the Education and Health Departments.
Most college and university hostels that had been converted into Covid Care Centres (CCC) at the height of the pandemic have already been vacated for reoccupation by students.
For example, the 1,400-bed Samras Hostel Covid Care Centre on campus at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, which was requisitioned by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in April 2020 for asymptomatic patients, was released by the civic body in the first week of January.
The facility was fully occupied when infections were peaking last year, but had become empty once the rate of infections started to go down several months ago.
On what basis has the decision been taken?
The government’s decision has been driven by the difficulties faced especially by students from underprivileged backgrounds whose education has been hit badly by the stopping of in-person classes due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A survey conducted by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIMA) and UNICEF Gujarat of 375 low income group parents residing in urban Ahmedabad between July and September 2020 revealed that around 30 per cent of children had not engaged in any formal learning activities since March 2020.
This was highest for those attending private schools through the regular mode (33 per cent), followed by government schools (26 per cent), and those attending private schools through the RTE mandate (22 per cent).
The study also revealed that among households enrolled in government schools (nearly 31 per cent of the total sample) around 85 per cent parents reported that they were not able to access anything in lieu of mid-day meals since March, when schools were shut.
The Gujarat High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of these findings and sought the state government’s response.
Recently however, a study by the Indian Institute of Teacher Education (IITE), Gandhinagar, concluded that the online education mode should be continued even after the pandemic is over, along with offline classes. The “unexpected” findings from over 300 students, parents, teachers, and educationists across rural and urban areas and a wide range of schools and classes in the state, were despite issues such as Internet connectivity and infrastructure glitches.
How have students of Classes 10 and 12 responded to the reopening of school so far?
While all government schools and the majority of grant-in-aid schools resumed offline classes from January 11, many self-financed schools have deferred their reopening to February 1. These schools, which are mostly affiliated to national and international boards, have said that parents would like to “wait and watch until January 31”.
Even for the schools that reopened across the state, the overall attendance remains 56 per cent for Class 12, and 55 per cent for Class 10 on average respectively.
In general, schools in cities like Surat and Rajkot have seen greater attendance than schools in the tribal districts like Dahod, Chhota Udepur and Panchmahal.
On-campus classes remain restricted, with timings ranging from two to four hours, even as online classes are continuing across all schools.
What about primary school?
It is very unlikely that primary sections will resume operations in this academic session. State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama has dismissed the possibility of mass promotions, and said that all examinations will be based only on the curriculum covered. Unit tests for government primary classes are being conducted regularly.
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