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Social distancing should be priority once schools and colleges reopen

May 4, 2020

Life will never be the same for students once they go back to their classes after the schools and colleges reopen. The HRD Ministry is formulating guidelines to ensure social distancing in educational institutions once they reopen to help contain any further chances of contracting the novel coronavirus infection. Educational institutions have been shut since mid-March when the government announced nationwide classroom shutdown to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19. Later, a 3-week nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which has now been extended till May 17.

After schools and colleges reopen, the safety guidelines by the HRD Ministry could include new seating matrix, staggered classes, different mess and library rules, revamped hostels and canteens when they return to their campuses. For schools, suspension of morning assemblies and sports activities in the playground, norms for school buses, do’s and dont’s in washrooms and cafeterias and regular disinfection of entire buildings, could be part of the guidelines and masks will be mandatory part of school uniforms. For residential schools, guidelines will detail social distancing norms to be followed in mess and hostels.

Several Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses are also working on chalking out ways for students to maintain social distancing, including restricting entry of visitors, classes in shifts and staggered laboratory timings. The HRD Ministry officials say the managements of educational institutions should prioritise proper social distancing norms for the health and safety of students whenever they reopen. The guidelines are being formulated by the ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy for schools and by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for universities and higher education institutions. “The guidelines will include a checklist and recommended measures to ensure student and staff safety. However, the COVID-19 situation in a particular area will also be have to kept in mind and the institutions will have flexibility to adapt to the guidelines accordingly. The minister has reiterated many times that the safety and health of students has to be prioritised,” a senior official told media sources.

“The guidelines are being formed and will also be shared with states so they can prepare accordingly before reopening schools and colleges. Districts will be tasked with the implementation of the guidelines and certain spaces in the campuses will have to be revamped to ensure social distancing,” the official added.

Last week, HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had held a meeting with the state education ministers and emphasised on the issue of safety.

While the UGC has already recommended commencement of academic session for freshers in September and for enrolled students in August, schools are also conducting online classes for their students. As per UGC recommendations, semester exams can be conducted in July either online or offline. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has announced that it will conduct the pending class 10 and 12 board exams in 29 subjects but has not announced the schedule yet. “So, far the exams happening online, the safety guidelines will have to be followed and same will apply to conduct of competitive examinations,” the official said.

The novel coronavirus cases countrywide rose to over 42,500 with a death toll of 1,373. Over 11,700 people have recovered from the disease as on Monday morning.

Recommended: Bangalore: College staff asked to attend institutes from May 4

Akhila Damodaran

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