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Maharashtra: Cabinet decision on school and college reopening

Maharashtra: MESTA schools to reopen from January 17 onwards

January 14, 2022
-Dipta Joshi

The Maharashtra English Schools Trustee Association (MESTA) (estb. 2014) has given an ultimatum to the state government to reopen schools at the earliest else its 18,000 member schools will resume physical classes January 17 onwards. The state’s schools and teachers’ associations have opposed school closures since theatres and malls etc. in the state continue to remain open even in the wake of rising Omicron variant infections.  

“Past experience has already shown that online education is not accessible to all, and neither is it the best mode of learning for many. Amongst younger children, online learning does not work if parents are not involved.  The government knew about a possible third COVID wave for a year and yet shutting down educational institutions seems to be its first option to tackle it. We will resume schools in two shifts with only 50 percent children present in each shift from January 17 onwards,” says Sanjayrao Tayadepatil, President, MESTA.

Maharashtra has been recording the highest number of COVID cases in the country since the Omicron variant was discovered. On Wednesday, January 12, the state reported 46,723 fresh cases. The state government ordered closures of all schools, colleges, and coaching classes till February 15 through its government order dated January 8.  

“The current decision has been taken based on the rising number of cases in Mumbai and Pune even though rural areas have not reported a rise in the number of infections. Would the government close down schools across Mumbai and Pune if the number of cases had increased in (rural) places like Nandurbar and Gadchiroli,” asks Bhausaheb Chaskar, a Zilla Parishad (ZP) (government-run school) teacher from Akole district, Ahmednagar criticising the government’s decision to close schools.

Schools for classes I to VIII in cities like Mumbai, Pune etc. were shut based on the decision taken by the local administration. Educationists, teachers and parents want a similar system (with the local gram panchayat taking the decision) to be followed for school closures in all rural areas. “Most Zilla Parishad schools in rural areas have just 27-35 students and two teachers in every school. This is less than the limit of 50 persons the state government has for public gatherings. Thus, there is no logic in closing schools,” says Vikram Adsul, co-ordinator, Active Teachers Maharashtra, which has 15,000 members in the state.

Another teacher’s forum, The State Primary Teachers Committee has also asked its members to present the ground reality of the impact of online education to the local administration based on the actual availability of android mobile phones in a household. Students in Maharashtra’s mofussil towns too have begun a campaign sending letters to the chief minister’s office to reopen schools without any delay. 

Also read: Six things to do when a child tests positive, a reminder for parents

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