THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite concerns about rising Covid cases in the state, the government is considering reopening the schools and colleges from next month in a phased manner after a gap of one-and-a-half years. Many educational institutions functioning in the capital city have started making action plans to comply with the Covid protocol that needs to be followed like sanitisation and seating students in each classroom.
The authorities at the educational institutions say readying the infrastructure, especially at schools, is one of the main challenges as these haven’t been used for more than a year now. Apart from infrastructure, regular sanitisation of the school premises will have to be made to ensure hygiene and safety. To ensure social distancing, the number of students accommodated in each classroom will be limited.
“The school will be reopened based on the government’s decision and directives, and classes for students from Kindergarten to higher classes will be resumed offline in a phased manner. Since conducting classes in full strength as in pre-Covid times would not be possible now, we will likely adopt the hybrid mode of education where classes will be held both online and offline till things get back to normal,” said Fr Mathew Thengumpally, principal of Christ Nagar Higher Secondary School.
“Though the government hasn’t announced its decision, we have already started making preparations in advance. Sanitising the school premises is the most challenging task. At least twice a day, the surroundings have to be sanitised to protect the children from infection. Precautions need to be taken at least for two months so that even if infection is reported in any student, immediate measures can be taken to prevent the spread,” said Fr Thengumpally.
The students and teachers also have to get back to the conventional method of learning after a long gap. “Enhancing the writing and reading skills of the students of junior classes has been a challenge due to online classes. Even teachers will have to analyse each student’s progress and take adequate steps,” said the principal. Meetings have already been held with the teachers and parents regarding the reopening of the school,” he added.
While the higher school classes will be held in shifts on alternate days, classes for the final-year degree and postgraduate students in colleges are all set to begin on October 4. The decision was taken at an online meeting held recently by Higher Education Minister R Bindu with the principals of around 400 professional arts and science colleges.
“As classes are all set to begin for the postgraduate students, we have taken all necessary precautions. Since our college offers postgraduate courses, we have a limited number of students in each classroom. Hence, there is no social distancing issue. Even the examinations were conducted smoothly adhering to the Covid protocol,” said Saji P Jacob, principal of Loyola College of Social Sciences. A survey by the college has found that 90% of the students, teachers and other staff members have already received both doses of vaccine. Some students who are still recovering from Covid will be discouraged from coming to the college for some time, said Jacob.
Meanwhile, health experts say that precautions need to be taken on various matters if educational institutions are to be reopened amid the pandemic. “During the first wave, it was believed that children could spread coronavirus. However, many children were infected with Covid through the adults. Hence, there is no logic in keeping the schools closed. But, there is an urgent need to equip hospitals with paediatric ICUs to deal with emergency situations.
More awareness needs to be spread among the children and parents about the safety measures to be taken as schools reopen and also screening children for MIS-C and other chronic illnesses. Reopening schools for classes in a phased manner will help in dealing with the situation better,” said Dr Vidya Vimal, consultant paediatrician, GG Hospital and SP Well Fort Hospital.
New normal classes
High school classes will be held in shifts on alternate days. Classes for the final-year degree and postgraduate students in colleges are all set to begin on October 4. This was decided in a meeting held by the Higher education Minister R Bindu.
As the state is gearing up to reopening educational institutions, TNIE talks to students, parents and teachers in the capital city about their concerns regarding their children returning to schools amid the Covid surge