March 18, 2021 11:16:29 pm
The Palghar district collector has announced closure of all residential schools and hostels after several students and staffers tested positive for Covid-19 in two tribal schools of Jawhar and Nandore. The closure will affect 103 residential schools and 33 tribal hostels.
A day after the circular was issued, schools voiced concerns about difficulty in online education due to poor network in the hilly terrain and lack of enough teachers to visit faraway villages to teach children.
The district has allowed day schools to function, and made an exception for students of tenth and twelfth class in residential schools to continue living in hostels with written consent.
Collector Dr Manik Gursal said that residential schools and hostels have a large population of children living together and immediate closure is necessary. Palghar recorded a 50-60 per cent jump in daily Covid-19 cases over a fortnight, recording over 200 new cases daily. The virus has caused no deaths this month.
Last week, 17 staffers from the community kitchen in Winval tested positive, which led to testing of all students in an aided residential tribal school in Hiradpada, Jawhar. At least 42 came positive, of them 24 are still actively infected. Earlier this week, 30 students and a teacher in Nandore residential school tested positive for Covid-19. In the third case, one student tested positive in government residential school in Ojhar.
“These are 73 positive cases out of 25,000 studying in Palghar. The Nandore school is a very big school with 50 per cent students coming from Palghar city. We had to take a call to shut hostels. Once the situation is better, we will call the students back,” said Ashima Mittal, sub-divisional officer, Dahanu.
On Thursday, in a private aided residential school in Vikramgad, 101 children of ninth and tenth class were giving their exams while principal Yograj Patil worried over how to arrange transportation to send them back home. “So far we have not received a circular from the tribal department to shut hostels. But if students have to go, their exams will be left mid-way,” he said. Several children come from villages 30 km away.
Patil added that online education is not feasible due to limited network range. He has 10 teachers for class first to tenth who will have to travel to villages to teach students.
Bharat Gosavi, an English lecturer, said he has to travel 26 km to Jawhar, where some of his students live. “We convinced parents with great difficulty to trust us with their children after schools reopened this year. We take daily temperatures. If children go home, bringing them back will be a challenge,” Gosavi said.
In Chinchghar village, fisherman Mahesh Patil has a daughter studying in ninth class and a son in seventh class, both in residential tribal schools. “I have not heard that hostels are closing down. I have one mobile. If they return home they will have to share it to study,” he said, adding that there is little scope to study once children return home.
Farmer Santosh Adhikari has one son in school and two in college. “We didn’t want them to return to residential school, but the teachers met us and convinced us. Covid-19 has made all of us fearful of sending our family outside home,” he said.
Dr T G Ghatal, health assistant in Vikramgad taluka, said the health department is routinely testing all school teachers and students to screen asymptotic cases. “Shutting schools can lead to huge loss in education. In tribal areas online education is not possible,” he said.
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