– Dipta Joshi
In Maharashtra, a large number of parents are in favour of reopening schools. According to an online survey conducted by the state’s education department, 81.32 percent of parents (5,25,088) have urged the government to reopen schools at the earliest. The remaining 18.68 percent (1,20,594) parents are not in favour of sending their wards to schools until the pandemic subsided. Parents were asked if they were willing to send their wards to schools if schools reopened with all the precautionary measures for COVID-19 in place.
Maharashtra’s State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) conducted the survey on behalf of the education department. Though not available on the SCERT’s official website, the survey became viral on social media with a total of 6,45,682 parents participating in the 4-day survey conducted between July 9-12.
Despite the rise in the number of COVID cases in rural Maharashtra, the survey had 2,87,578 rural parents urging the authorities to reopen schools. “City-based parents are more likely to opt for online studies since they have no trouble with accessing online education. However, online education has not really taken off in the rural areas since the lockdown. Rural parents are worried about their children missing out on education totally unless they attend physical classes. Also the provision of the monthly mid-day meal kits and distribution of physical textbooks happening at schools is a big draw for rural parents during these tough times,” says Dr. Nalini Gaikwad of the pan-Maharashtra teacher’s union Shikshak Bharti Sangh.
The state government recently permitted schools in rural areas with no reported COVID cases over the last month to begin physical classes for grades VIII–XII from July 15. With only main subjects being taught, classes will not extend beyond four hours. While the final decision to reopen schools will rest with an eight-member committee with the chief (sarpanch) of the village panchayat as its head, parental consent will be a must for attendance.
The government also reiterated its earlier stance of ensuring all teachers and school staff are vaccinated before the reopening of schools while warning strict action against schools neglecting COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). Students will also be subject to temperature checks when on campus.
Sharing the government order dated July 7, the state’s education minister, Varsha Gaikwad mentioned that even as the government continued to promote remote learning and online education, it was working towards safe resumption of schools in Corona-free villages. “A blended approach is the need of the hour in these difficult times,” she added.
Most parents opposing the reopening of schools are concerned about the new COVID-19 variant and the third wave of the virus expected to hit the state in August. “When schools reopened after the first wave of COVID-19, there was a rapid rise in the number of teachers and students being infected. Besides, experts have warned the third wave could be dangerous for children. So parents will continue to remain wary of sending their wards to schools as long as their children can study online,” says Anubha Sahai, president, India-wide Parents Association.
Maharashtra has been among the few states reporting a rise in the number of cases with the government even enforcing a complete eight-day lockdown in the state’s Satara district on July 3. Several other districts faced weekend lockdowns to curb the spread of the infection. On Sunday alone the state reported 8,535 new infection cases.News, States