A man cools off under the ‘shade’ of a dead tree in Kharghar
MUMBAI: Children with no access to smart phones, children dependent on midday meals for daily nutrition and the need for continuity, has forced the education department to chalk out a plan to reopen schools in parts of the state. School education minister Varsha Gaikwad said they were consulting local level officers and stakeholders to develop a standard operating procedure and plan to reopen schools for higher classes in green zones, in a phased manner.
“We are currently only speaking to officials and principals to understand on-ground reality. In rural parts of the state online education isn’t possible. A lot of children depend on the midday meal for their daily nutrition. So even if we are sending uncooked groceries home, it might not be fulfilling the purpose, since their parents are working on the field. We do not want these students to drop out of the formal education system and hence we have to restart schools in green zones,” said Gaikwad.
The minister added that suggestions included running schools in shifts, involving local governments and school management committees to spread awareness about social distancing, sanitization, and making the infrastructure safer. “We cannot have a common reopening date or protocol for the entire state, and hence we need to take parents and local bodies into confidence before we consider reopening schools in safe areas, and have teachers living near the school. We will focus on reopening for classes VIII onwards, since the younger students might not be able to follow instructions on social distancing and sanitization,” said Gaikwad.
For rest of the state, the department will consider online tutoring. “It is unlikely that we will be able to open schools in the cities and red zones. We are looking at virtual classrooms and online teaching. We have also written to the central government for a television channel slot,” she added.
Parents and principals in the city have been demanding the state not reopen schools any time soon. “Guidelines like one student per desk, or two shifts are fine. But what about the number of desks per class? How do we maintain social distancing in between, when teachers move between classes?” asked a school principal.