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State Government Remains Indecisive on Partial Reopening of Schools, Opinions of School Children Divided

Manipur since the last week of March this year closed down its educational institutions as a precautionary measure against the outbreak of Covid-19 which presently affects the whole world. For the past six months, students have remained at home without attending schools, coaching or tuition centres. Some have been engaged in virtual online classes.

Students from different schools and various grades have expressed mixed reactions on their ongoing online classes and the changed pattern of reading habits and mobile phone use during the pandemic.

A pupil of class IV has expressed that he is extremely happy to be with his parents playing, eating together and enjoying a lot with his younger sister, cousins and grandparents. But at the same time, he has changed his study routine. Maximum of his time has been engaged in playing and watching television and only a few hours devoted to studies. He says he has even forgotten his teachers and classmates since it has been a long time since he went to his school.

Asked about his willingness to attend school during the Covid-19 pandemic, he asserts that he will never attend his classes even if the government decides to re-open schools, not even with precautionary SOP. He said he will be ready to go to school only after the coronavirus pandemic completely disappears from the world. “Life is more important than any studies; we can study after the pandemic without any fear and tensions,” the student of class IV added.

“I am not afraid of attending my classes following the SOP guidelines of the Health Department once the state government decides to reopen the schools,” says another student who is in class VIII. He also narrates that he does not have any fear of coronavirus if he washes his hands frequently and thoroughly, keeps social distancing and wears a face mask. His school has been providing materials for all the subjects through WhatsApp. He also mentions that most of his time is engaged in watching television and playing mobile games and only a few hours go into reading.

A mother of a Class X student expressed that her daughter has two hours online classes daily. But she is not fully satisfied with the online classes as there are many technical problems during the classes such as network or internet problems. Her daughter feels exhausted and gets headaches almost all the time due to maximum exposure to mobile copying of all the class materials for all the subjects on the small mobile screen. She sends her daughter for private tuitions for all the subjects, some through online, as her daughter is in class X which is an important juncture of her academic career. About her consent for sending her daughter to school during the pandemic, she replies that she is not willing to send her daughter to school but once the vaccine comes out, she is ready to send her to school.

“Even though now I am in XI standard, I do not know who my classmates are and from where they have joined our school. If there could be normal classes like before the pandemic I would have been enjoying a lot in XI standard with my new friends after having cleared my Xth examination. Just from the beginning of my new standard, I have been engaged with the online classes for six subjects. Sometimes due to poor internet connections and power supply, the classes are cancelled,” expressed a student of class XI Humanities. She uses a mobile phone for searching academic materials for the related subjects that are in the syllabus and for other purposes too. As she continues to use her mobile phone after the academic activities, it made her addicted to the phone, which was never the case before the online classes during the pandemic.

“Practical portions are not feasible on the online classes. It is very unfortunate for science students like me. It is difficult to understand the interaction with the teachers through online classes when there are doubts with a particular idea or topic. I took tuitions for all the subjects online apart from school online classes. Because of the current pandemic, I fully depend on mobile internet to get the latest information and at the same time entertain myself to get rid of boredom from staying at home for the last six months without going anywhere,” narrates a student of class XII Science. He won’t be going to school unless and until the vaccine for Covid-19 arrives at Imphal.

From the above mixed reactions of different students, it seems that almost all the students are becoming addicted to mobile phones to some extent as they continue to use it also for other than their academic purposes. But what about the students whose parents cannot afford android mobile phones for their children, will they be able to join the online classes? Besides there are many students who could not enrol in the next standard as their parents are not in a position to provide expenses due to the pandemic. Who are the losers and who’s responsible for the situation? There is no question of losing for those students whose parents can afford private tuitions for their students for all the subjects through online even during the pandemic of Covid-19.

Recently on 30th September, 2020 an order was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India regarding the re-opening of school and coaching institutions. The order states that State and Union Territories may take a decision in respect of re-opening of schools and coaching institutions after 15th October, 2020, in a graded manner. The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective schools or institution.

It may also be mentioned that schools in some State and Union Territories have partially re-opened from 21st September, 2020 for students of 9th to 12 classes on a voluntary basis under the Unlock 4. According to the guidelines, schools are allowed to open with 50 percent teaching and non-teaching staff. Students will have to get a consent slip from their parents to visit the schools. Schools have been advised to arrange different entry and exit gates if possible. Till now, Manipur state government has not taken any decision on partial re-opening of schools. Let’s wait and see the government’s decision on this matter with a new Education Minister in the offing.

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