MUMBAI: As the coronavirus cases continue to rise in Maharashtra, state School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad has said schools will not reopen in the state before Diwali.
Maharashtra has till now reported 15,17,434 COVID-19 cases and 40,040 deaths due to the disease.
The Centre on March 16 announced closure of all educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
It has now allowed graded reopening of schools from October 15.
Gaikwad, who recently recovered from COVID-19, said schools have been conducting virtual classes and teachers have been taking special classes for students in some areas.
However, the challenge is to find a way to end the academic year and assess students, she said.
"While we are exploring various options, it is clear that schools will not open before Diwali," Gaikwad said.
According to senior officials in the state education department, reopening schools under the current circumstances is out of question, as there is no sign of the pandemic abating.
State Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant also said his department does not intend to reopen colleges until the COVID-19 situation is under control.
"The situation is grim for students who wish to pursue higher studies abroad, as their future depends on our decision," he added.
Even as the state government and bureaucracy mull over solutions, children and parents are worried as they seem to be caught in a quagmire.
"I have taken an education loan and my parents are repaying it. If I don't get good grades in exams, how will I get a good job?" said Raviraj Humbe, an engineering student from Pune.
There must be some technical solution for conducting exams and tests, he said.
Meanwhile, education expert Kishore Darak suggested that the state government can club two or three educational years so that concerns of parents about academic loss can be addressed.
While the safety of students is imperative, it is high time that the state comes up with a bipartisan approach towards education, he said.
"The government must come up with a solution where local officials are authorised to take context-specific decisions like full or partial reopening of schools or alternate day scheduling of classes, among others," he said.