Schools around Bangalore assure safety; however, students are often reckless with the rules. Parents find it hard to relax as their children attend classes every day.
Bangalore : At 3:30 pm when the school bell rings to mark the end of the day, students crowd outside to chat with one another. Without masks or sanitizers, students wait in groups for their respective Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses to drop them home.
St Joseph’s Group of Institutions started as soon as the Karnataka State Government gave the green signal. The school has allowed students of sixth grade and above to attend onsite classes. The boy’s school currently has 1500 students attending classes every day. St Claret Convent School has also started functioning with full strength. The administration said that all students from grade 5 and above have been attending classes regularly.
According to Vinay, a student at St Joseph’s, two students share a bench. “There are 70 students in each class and we wear masks when we are in class,” he added. Vinay and his friends spend their break playing sports in their school grounds.
Shweta, the school nurse, said that they recently allowed students to play in the grounds in batches. “The COVID-19 tests were done when the school opened, the school doesn’t plan to take any further tests,” she said. According to Shweta, parents were initially hesitant to send their children to school, however, they were assured when they noticed that the school was taking precautions like allowing one student in the washroom at a time, taking temperature checks every morning, placing sanitizers at every corner and making sure that their students are aware.
The students travel by public transport everyday as the school doesn’t provide any transportation. Samuel, a parent of one of the students said that he had to incur more costs in order to send his child to school by his car. “I was afraid of my son’s safety. I had no option but to send him to school as it’s his boards this year,” he added.
Educational experts suggest that online mode of learning would be a better call during the pandemic. “There is no need for onsite classes for students below tenth grade, hence it just becomes an unnecessary risk for students,” said Dr. Vivek Nath Tripathi, professor at the Department of Education at Bahasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University. He added that onsite classes are important for tenth graders and above because they have to use labs for practical learning.
Shweta Verma, mother of a Class III student, said that her child would have to go back to school by next month and this has become a matter of great stress for her family. “I can’t trust her to wear her mask, it will be very dangerous for her,” she added.
Delhi Public School, Mysore, has been continuing with the online classes since the pandemic started. Viji, the school administrator, said that the online classes have been running smoothly. “The lab sessions for grade tenth and above were successfully conducted online,” she added.
Tanveer said “We didn’t have much of a choice when it came to attending classes online, as they made it mandatory for us.” Tanveer studies at St Joseph’s Indian High School PU College. She said that each class has around 100 students and three share a bench. The University Grants Commissions’ guidelines for schools reopening, however, advise the schools to use the policy of ‘one student one bench’ in light of the pandemic.
Father Felix, the vice principal of the boys’ school, said that they had earlier divided the classes in various batches to maintain distance between students. With time they had relaxed this practice but continued with maintaining strict precautions. He has full faith in his students and hence “knows how to control them” when it comes to adhering the COVID-19 protocols.
Dr. Anjani Kumar Singh, consultant with masters in public health and parent of two, believes that the decision of reopening schools without plans for vaccinating students anytime soon was an irresponsible move. “Children, specially now, would want to socialize once they see their friends. This poses the risk of them contracting COVID,” he said. He said that children have the same risk as adults getting COVID. “Schools can become probable clusters,” he added.