Kerala school reopening: What do we know so far about it?
What’s the news?
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on September 22 announced that schools will be reopened in the state. The decision was taken in the weekly review meeting headed by the CM a few days ago.
Kerala was moving slowly in sending the kids back to school as many other states have already opened up. However, a large number of students will reach school compared to other states. Classes one to seven, ten and twelve will go to school from November 1 while classes 8, 9, and 11 will join them from November 15.
Meanwhile, colleges and universities will start functioning from October 4 onwards. The full strength of the final year PG classes and half of the final year UG classes will be commencing initially.
How will it function?
Well, exact details are yet to come. The government has constituted a committee headed by the principal secretaries of the health and education departments and the Director of General Education to form guidelines which will be discussed in the Covid-19 review committee. Guideline preparation involves consultation with PWD, the Local Self Governments Department, and various other stakeholders.
What do we know about the guidelines?
All students cannot arrive at school together. There will be shifts. It can be either alternative days or morning/afternoon sessions. Alternate days are more convenient and practical for schools and students as well. So most probably the government will choose that. Online classes in the afternoon (after the physical classes) is also on the cards.
To avoid repetition of classes (for teachers), the government is planning to air them live for those students who are at their homes, through the G-Suite set up (Google Meet/Google Classroom). IT training for teachers is underway for the last one month.
Travel is the other major concern. A sizable share of private buses stopped their services. With only 50 per cent of the capacity allowed at present, it further burdens them to take students who travel for almost free of cost.
Auto-rickshaw, jeeps, tempo-travellers and school buses are the next major transportation facilities. Some reports suggest that only one student per seat will be allowed to travel in school buses. At this rate, an auto-rickshaw can take a maximum of two students. Special KSRTC services will be arranged from schools with high enrollment, education minister V Sivankutty said.
Schools have already obtained the fitness certificate. The premises will be cleaned in the first week of October.
Facilities for sanitising, temperature checking, oxygen-level checking will also be arranged.
Teachers will be deployed to prevent the crowding of students.
The final decision on all the suggestions will be made at the Covid-19 review meeting.
What are the responses?
They are mixed. Obviously, the students are happy. And teachers too. But parents are worried.
A joint press conference of health and education ministers said that a bio-bubble will be created surrounding the students. What is it exactly? Biosecure bubbles are used widely with sports events to secure players from getting infected with the virus. They are strict regulations that do not let players go outside or let anyone from outside interact with them. In schools, the teachers, staff, parents and others will be vaccinated. Strict adherence to wearing masks and sanitising will be followed too.
Compulsory or not?
Uniforms are also not compulsory.
Differently-abled kids need not go to school. Parents can choose not to send them.
Lunch will not be provided at school. A sum of amount for food may be granted to the students at a later point.
Previous academic year
Classes 10 and 12 were reopened on January 1, 2021. More than 250 students and teachers tested positive in two schools in Ponnani, Malappuram.
IMA asked the government to close the schools.
In the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, universities postponed exams in April. However, SSLC, Plus Two exams were concluded on time.