After 19 months of closure, schools reopened in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Monday adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols as children were excited to be back on campus, meeting their friends and teachers, with whom they were limited to interacting online.
Masked students, thermal scanning, and volunteers guiding staggered entry and exit for children was a common sight at the schools where children, from tiny tots to junior wing students, were welcomed by teachers who gave them tiny gift packets and sweets. While several schools in Delhi reopened with 50 per cent seating capacity, majority of private schools have deferred the reopening to post Diwali. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia visited the Rajkiya Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in East Delhi’s Vinod Nagar and interacted with students.
At the school’s primary wing, one student turned doctor for Sisodia who played a patient. “Met this special doctor today in a school class room. Full body check up, injection, medicine prescription, and instructions to ‘avoid icecream’…God… I was missing this…,” Sisodia tweeted while sharing a few pictures showing the student examining him using a toy stethoscope.
At the Government CO-ED Senior Secondary School, Lajpat Nagar, a class 8 student said, “I am excited to attend school regularly henceforth. It felt good to be back after almost two years.” “Online classes were definitely useful but during physical classes, we can always clear our doubts then and there.
Due to network issues, sometimes, we don’t get a clear picture of what’s going on and it is quite tiring for eyes to keep looking at the screen for so long,” the student said. Another student who was equally excited to join school said, “Even during Covid times, our teachers did make all efforts to take our classes sincerely and give us attention individually too.
We could approach them individually to clear our doubts.” “Even though they were available, we still felt something was missing — the fun of meeting our friends and coming to school. I hope the classes don’t get affected because of the possibility of third wave.” Following a marked improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the national capital, the Delhi government had announced the reopening of schools for classes 9 to 12, colleges and coaching institutions from September 1.
However, this is the first time after March 2020 that schools in Delhi are reopening for classes upto 8. In Kerala, students of classes from 1 to 7, 10 and 12 reached schools which were sanitised and decorated to welcome the children across the state. Offline classes for students in standards 8, 9 and 11 will start on November 15.
Children looked excited as some were going to school after a long gap, while kids of classes 1 and 2 attended school for the first time in their lives. School authorities welcomed children with gift packets which included books, pen, sanitisers, masks and balloons. Even teachers were excited as they could take a break from the online classes and physically talk to children and get feedback.
“Online classes have their own advantage but we may not get proper feedback at times. I am very happy that schools have now reopened and we can meet children. We can teach them and spend time with them. However, we need to be extra careful as the pandemic is still here,” Deepa, a teacher from a school in Ernakulam told PTI.
Parents were also excited that children will now be able to spend more time in schools rather than being limited to the four walls of homes. “As the mother of two children who live in an apartment, I feel that my kids need more space to spend their energy. In school, they will be able to talk to children of their age, meet their teachers, there will be activities to keep them busy and many more. We are still worried about the pandemic though,” Swapna, an Infopark employee, said.
Parents are worried about children spending time with other students due to COVID-19 but the state government has assured that all precautions will taken in schools. School authorities have been directed to prepare mid-day meal for children and distribute them adhering to COVID protocol besides ensuring them the service of a doctor, the Education Department had said.
In Tamil Nadu, students were accorded a warm, traditional welcome. Chief Minister M K Stalin visited a Chennai Corporation-run institution at Guindy and distributed education kits and sweets to children. He was accompanied by state ministers E V Velu and Ma Subramanian.
Across the state, schools reopened for offline classes for the students of classes 1 to 8, with enthusiastic children being greeted by the traditional Tamil reception in some places involving Nagaswaram-Thavil instruments that are used for auspicious occasions like weddings. In many schools, teachers greeted children by sprinkling rose water and presenting them with flowers and chocolates.
Most children seemed to be happy reuniting with their friends. The state government had in September announced restarting physical classes for the primary students from Monday, saying the decision was taken based on feedback from medical experts, educationists and parents. Stakeholders had opined that students faced stress and a gap in learning as they were confined to their homes since last year, following the emergence of the pandemic, the government had then said. Students of class 9-12 resumed attending physical classes in schools in the state from September 1, this year.