Nishikant Khajuria/ Irfan Tramboo
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Sept 21: Extremely thin attendance of students was registered as schools partially re-opened today on voluntary basis for class 9 to 12 across Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of over six months due to COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown.
Only a few students turned up in some schools to attend special classes meant to clear their doubts related to studies even as 50 per cent teaching staff was present as per the directions issued by the School Education Department.
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According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Health and Family Welfare (H&FW) Department, the attendance of the students from class 9th to 12th is voluntary and students are to be allowed only after proper consent from their parents.
“There are no regular classes but only consultation and that too optional for the students, who need to take prior permission for the same from their parents,” said Dr Asgar Samoon, Principal Secretary, School Education Department.
“In addition to online classes, visiting school and having face to face consultation in any subject by following SOPs is optional and meant for only to build confidence among students as well as teachers,” said Anuradha Gupta, Director School Education Jammu, while reiterating that the Directorate was committed for safety of students and staff by strictly adhering to all the SOPs in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
The School Education Department has also issued ‘Letter of Consent’ for parents allowing their wards to attend the school while sanitization and fumigation was also done in the school premises and classrooms.
However, despite all arrangements and SOPs in place, almost zero attendance was witnessed in the Government schools even as a few private institutions registered thin presence of students. “There was almost negligible presence of students in all the schools, including private ones,” said Ajay Gupta, general secretary of Private Schools Association.
On the other hand, 50 percent teachers were called in the schools for guiding the students. “Even as not even a single student visited the school today, we had made all arrangement and telephonically conveyed the 50 per cent staff members to attend the duties while a roster in this regard has also been prepared now, according to which teachers will be available on rotational basis for guiding the students,” explained Udot Kumar, Principal of a Government school.
Reports from Kashmir also said that a thin attendance was observed across the schools even as staff was present .
The students were seen wearing masks and maintaining social distances while the school managements were seen providing masks to those who were not wearing one.
A teacher at Kothi Bagh Girls Higher Secondary told Excelsior that the attendance was voluntary and they were allowing only those students who had proper written consent from their parents.
“We have started the classes though with thin attendance for the day; we are adhering to the SOPs and the directions issued by the Government in this regard,” he said.
Earlier, the Consent Forms were also circulated among the students who were willing to join the classes. The Consent Forms, however, evoked criticism from the parents and the civil society.
“I shall provide a facemask and hand sanitizer to my daughter/son required as per the guidelines of the Government. I will also ensure that my daughter/son shall not wear a belt, rings, wrist watch while going to the school,” the consent reads further.
The consent form stated that the parents will not blame the school if their ward catches COVID-19 infection. “I undertake that I will not blame anybody in the school for any incident of covid19 infection,” reads the undertaking that is to be signed by the parents.
The classes are on for 9th-12th and the teachers of other classes will also be made to attend the school on a rotational basis in coming days.
The students, however, said that going to school once in a week is not going to help them. “We are happy that schools have reopened. The mind seems to be refreshing; once a week is not going to be beneficial,” said Mehvish, a student at Kothi Bagh.
She said that if the schools continue for the entire week, the number of students will surely increase with every passing day.
A teacher at one of the schools in Srinagar said that the students who were locked up in their homes are returning to schools and that is a good sign. “They were in a depression and the opening of schools will help them a lot. We are encouraging the students to come,” he said.