Even as government appears to be moving towards early reopening of educational institutions in the State, parents seem reluctant to send their children amid unrelenting pandemic situationby P. Sujatha Varma VIJAYAWADA
The raging COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the education sector dramatically. There is a distinctive rise of e-learning, where teaching is done remotely and on digital platforms.
But this sudden shift away from the classroom has also brought to the fore the digital divide showing that not all of the children away from the classroom have access to computers or other digital devices. The Education Department thus is focussed on exploring ways to see how and when schools can be reopened.
While the government seems determined to demonstrate that education should not stop even under the toughest conditions, there is anxiety among parents and a large number of them are reluctant to send their children back to school while the pandemic is still raging.
Following release of GO 390 envisaging guidelines for the Unlock 4.0, the authorities in the State decided to reopen schools from September 21, but only for students of classes 9 to 12 (Intermediate second year) for having their doubts cleared by teachers.
This facility is available only to students who live outside the containment zones and have a written consent from their parents or guardian. The regular classes will remain closed till September 30.
"We want to reopen schools tentatively on October 5. But the final decision will be arrived at depending on the pandemic conditions and the Unlock 5.0 guidelines by the Centre. This uncertainty is causing a great deal of worry to all of us and we want to see normalcy returning to school campuses," Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh announced at a recent press meet.
For children, the experience of going to school will be a different one. Temperature checks, disinfected classrooms and social distancing will be the new normal. "I disagree with the eagerness of the authorities to reopen schools. My son’s health is a priority over education. They are kids, they touch everything and then they touch their faces. One can’t guard them all the time when they are in school," says a concerned mother L. Madhavilatha.
"Life itself is difficult in this age of pandemic. Why insist on school?" asks an anxious Radhika. "I would rather opt for home-schooling than allow my child to read lessons in these circumstances," she says categorically.
Most parents argue that safety of their children is paramount over education. While some are ready to wait till a vaccine is developed, others feel that children should be kept off school campuses at least till December-end. "The sharp spike in the positive cases and the over-crowded hospitals have fuelled their fears," says Yogi Ramaiah, chairman of the School Management Committee at Komma Seeta Ramaiah Zilla Parishad Girls’ High School at Patamatalanka.
The parents of some children who go to schools located close to their home are willing to send them if the school strictly adheres to the COVID-19 protocol. "The number of positive cases around have declined and so parents may agree to send their wards. But children who come from far-off places will face problems in the absence of a transport facility," says A. Faizannisa, chairperson, School Management Committee, Dr. Jandhyala Dakshina Murthy Municipal Corporation High School at Vambay Colony.
Teachers, meanwhile, are ready to help the government in every possible way to wriggle out of this uncertain phase. "Students have already lost precious academic time. There is a risk of young learners completely losing interest in classroom lessons if there is a further gap," cautions P. Babu Reddy, State general secretary of the AP United Teachers’ Federation.