Guwahati, Oct 11 (PTI) Many parents in Assam are determined not to send their wards back to schools amid COVID-19 crisis even if the institutions reopen from next month, a cross-section of guardians said.
Though no order has been issued, the state government is likely to consider reopening of schools for students of Class 6 onwards from November 1, a senior official of the education department said.
Some of the parents along with teachers suggested that schools should remain shut for the entire year and the government should declare 2020 as 'COVID-19 Year'.
As per the Centre's latest Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the Centre has allowed states and Union Territories to take a decision on reopening schools in a graded manner from October 15.
Many school authorities are of the view that the government's decision to reopen educational institutions is a 'bit early' considering the rising number of infections and mounting fatalities.
Already students of Class 9 to 12 are permitted to visit schools on a voluntary basis, with written consent of their parents, for seeking guidance from teachers.
'I will not send my daughter until there is a vaccine or the situation improves. No parent wants to risk the life of children,' Anil Kumar Jha, former special DGP of Assam, told PTI.
Jha, whose daughter studies in Class 2 of a private school in the state capital, said, 'Losing an academic year is not a big issue for school children. The central government can bring out a notification in this regard and can easily give age relaxations in job or retirement against loss of this particular year.' Expressing similar sentiments, Assam Public Service Commission member Sanjib Gohain Boruah, whose daughter is a Class 12 student, said opening of schools post the festive season is a matter of concern as COVID-19 positive cases are expected to go up.
'After months of staying at home, the children will naturally be excited to meet their friends and may forget to maintain norms of social distancing, necessary for containing the spread of the infection,' he said.
Boruah favoured continuation of online learning for a few more months till there is a visible decline in COVID-19 cases even though he agreed that benefits of classroom teaching cannot be denied.
His daughter Anuragini Gohain Boruah said she is upset to miss the fun of the last year of her school life.
'Initially, I was happy with it. But now at times, I suffer from headaches due to staring at the computer screen for long hours. I wish to go back to normal classes,' she added.
SBOA Educational Society (NE Circle) chairman Sitanath Lahkar pointed out that when schools and colleges had partially reopened in Assam for higher classes in September, many students and teachers were reported to have contracted COVID-19.
'Will that not happen again? What is the urgency of opening schools when the state Health Minister himself said that the situation in Assam is grave? 'The government is asking parents to sign a declaration similar to that done by a patient's family before he undergoes an operation in a hospital.
'Which parent will sign such a declaration that puts the entire onus on guardians?' he asked.
Lahkar, former principal of Cotton College, further said, teachers may enforce social distancing and other protocols inside classrooms, but wondered how can that be implemented in playgrounds or school buses.
'I feel it is too early to reopen schools at this stage when we don't have surety of the vaccine,' he said.
Retired teacher of Cotton Collegiate Govt HS School, the oldest school in the northeastern region, Sabita Gohain Gogoi asked whether students will follow the protocols when they meet their friends after such a long time.
'Will they not play together? Will they not eat and share their food together during tiffin breaks? Worried for her school-going grandson, Gogoi opined that this year should be declared as 'COVID-19 Year' and schools should reopen after one year as losing an academic session for safety of children is not a big deal.
Several teachers said on condition of anonymity that parents have told them that they will not risk the lives of their children by sending them to schools in such difficult times. PTI TR MM MM