CHENNAI: Schools in Tamil Nadu might soon reopen for students studying in classes 9, 10, 11 and 12. School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi on Tuesday said that discussions were on in this regard.
“Parents must be confident about sending their children to school and not worry about the pandemic. We are considering opening schools at least for the high and higher secondary school students. The State is also taking steps towards improving infrastructure and the strength of teachers in government schools,” the minister told reporters in Chennai.
Although there is a concern about health, parents and teachers are largely in favour of the move. “We have been asking the government to reopen schools since the first week of July as students are slowly losing an interest to learn. Especially after the ICMR clarified that children will not be largely affected in the possible third wave since they have good immunity, it is high time that schools are reopened,” said PK Ilamaran, president of the Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association.
Ilamaran suggested that the students may be asked to attend only five periods a day since they will not be able to wear masks for long hours. For primary school students, classes on alternate days has also been suggested.
‘We may lose another year if we wait for vax’
According to educationist Prince Gajendrababu, it would be ideal if every school was connected to a Primary Health Centre (PHC). “The health centre must have information about all the children and be informed in case of any infection. This will avoid unnecessary panic. Also, awareness must be spread on safety protocols,” he said.
Parents feel vaccination, once approved for children, will play a crucial role. Dayanand Krishnan, parent of a class 12 student, said, “Vaccination could be done simultaneously so that risk is reduced. This will ensure that students continue to go to schools even if the next wave hits, as vaccinated office-goers have been operating currently.”
However, health experts said that waiting for vaccines would only cause further delay. “If we wait for vaccines to be administered to children, they might lose another year of social, academic and overall development,” said Dr Prabhdeep Kaur, Deputy Director at National Institute of Epidemology.
Instead, she said schools can reopen but in smaller batches. “We could open schools with proper precautions. There must be smaller batches to ensure no crowding. Staggered timing is even better. Also, there shouldn’t be any mixing across classes during lunch break and recess,” said Kaur who was also a member of the Covid-19 expert committee of the Tamil Nadu government.
Online classes are not very helpful, feel parents
Largely, parents are of the opinion that online classes are not very helpful since many students are not taking them ‘seriously’. They added that reopening schools would be helpful for the mental health of the children.