Parents, teachers upset over reopening of schools

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Panaji: The decision of the government to partially reopen the schools from September 21 onwards may be congruous with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the central government; however, it has not augured well for the teachers as well as parents of the students. 

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant last week announced that his government plans to reopen educational institutions for students of classes from IX to XII, and further for those studying at the final year graduation level, in consultation with parent-teacher associations and headmasters’ associations.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already issued SOPs under the Centre’s Unlock-4 guidelines for allowing schools to reopen in areas outside the containment zones. The ministry has allowed schools to reopen for resuming the face-to face method of learning from September 21.

“This SOP outlines various generic precautionary measures to be adopted in addition to specific measures to be taken when schools are permitting students (for class IX to class XII),” the ministry maintained, pointing out that “The concerned teaching and non-teaching employees – up to 50 per cent of the strength – can be called to the schools.”

It is learnt that the department of education has now decided to hold online interactions with the parents and teachers, to learn about their views as regards reopening of schools. However, with only five days left for the new week to begin and tentatively for the partial reopening of the classes, it is uncertain how much online interaction can take place in this short span of time.

A headmaster of a city-based school told this daily that as per the central government SOPs, all the work areas in schools, especially high-touch surfaces used for teaching, demonstration, etc will have to be cleaned and sanitised regularly using one per cent sodium hypochlorite solution. “The government will have to ensure if this is carried out on regular basis, and more importantly, if the same is feasible for all schools,” he stated.

Principal of a Margao-based higher secondary school said that on one hand the SOP states that the online learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged, while on the other it maintains that the students from class IX to XII shall be permitted to visit their school on voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers, subject to written consent of their parents/ guardians. “These are contradictory statements and allow the students to study from home,” he said, further questioning the rationale behind reopening of classes in such a fashion.

A parent of a higher secondary school student told this daily that there are aged people in his house and he as well as his son are worried about the virus arriving in the house through the school.

Another parent of a class IX student, on the condition of anonymity, stated that as per the SOPs of the central ministry, the teacher-students interaction should be organised in a staggered manner to ensure social distancing as also usage of face masks needs to be made mandatory for students, teachers and other employees. “Can the headmaster of my daughter’s school guarantee me that these guidelines would be strictly enforced in the school, or rather is it possible to do so,” he questioned.

Meanwhile, president of the Higher Secondary Teachers Association of Goa (HISTAG) Anant Pissurlekar told this daily that he supports an arrangement wherein those students needing some clarifications in their online study are allowed to visit their school and interact with the concerned teachers by following all measures.

“The department of education needs to make a start somewhere, and this appears to be a safe method,” he observed, pointing out that he would be visiting the department of education on September 16 to discuss the reopening of schools.