Bengal schools unsure about resumption of physical classes

KOLKATA: Despite the Union Ministry of Education allowing gradual reopening of educational institutions across the country, state-run schools in West Bengal are unsure about the resumption of physical classes and are waiting for the state government’s decision.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier said her administration will think about reopening educational institutions after Kali Puja on November 15 “depending on the COVID-19 situation at that time”.

Education Minister Partha Chatterjee had said schools cannot be reopened till the pandemic situation improves and the safety of children is the priority of the state government.

West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education president Mahua Das said any decision on the reopening of the schools will be taken by the administration and instructions communicated to the institutions by the School Education Department.

“We are yet to receive any communication from the department so no preparation has been taken by the council,” Das told PTI on Sunday.

A senior official of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education said nothing has been finalised yet and no guideline or standard operating procedure has been issued by the School Education Department with regard to the seating arrangement, physical distancing and other measures.

“The situation is still fluid. We need to first come out of the present uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. We will wait for the decision of the chief minister and the education minister on reopening of schools,” he said.

Hindu School principal Subhrojit Dutta compared the present situation with that of World War 2 or the Spanish Flu pandemic.

“None of us know when the situation will normalise. Schools with large buildings like ours can enforce the COVID- 19 guidelines if educational institutions are allowed to reopen after a month or so but what about the hundreds of smaller schools? I think it will be very challenging for those institutions,” he said.

Dutta said more than 100 students of class 12 had come with their guardians in the last two days to fill forms for board exams and they were seated in several classrooms with adherence to social distancing norms and the rooms were regularly sanitised by staffers.

“But that was for only two days and they had come in groups. We have to take similar measures for resuming physical classes. When that will happen is anybody’s guess,” he said.

Jadavpur Vidyapith Head Master Parimal Bhattacharya said the institution is conducting online classes for class 10 and 12 students but that is “not enough”.

Students and their guardians are apprehensive about their safety after the resumption of physical classes.

“I have no idea when I can go back to classes. The online lessons are not a long-term alternative. Videos of the lectures cannot always be downloaded on a smartphone but my parents fear I might get infected with COVID-19 if I attend physical classes,” Abir Bhattacharya, class 10 student of B T Road Government Sponsored High School, said.

Debopriyo Ghosh, the father of class 12 student Sayantani Ghosh of Sodepur’s Sushilkrishno Girls School, is worried about his daughter’s academic schedule.

“I don’t know when the school will reopen or exams will be held and whether the curriculum will be completed,” he said.

As per the Union ministry’s guidelines, schools and coaching institutions can reopen in a graded manner after October 15 but the final decision will be taken by the states and Union territories.

It also allowed the states and Union territories to formulate SOPs as per the local context and requirements.




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