As the Unlock 5.0 guidelines has allowed schools to reopen from October 15 and an order of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has entrusted the States/UTs to decide as to when they would open classes in the schools, several states have reopened the schools now.
However, the Government of Manipur is not ready yet to reopen schools. Manipur Government’s School Education Director, L Nandakumar told Imphal Review on January 9 that the state government is preparing to reopen the schools but he is not able to disclose when to reopen the schools and what to do since the State Cabinet has to decide about the reopening of the schools in its next meeting. However, SOPs have been finalised and the State Cabinet also has already given the approval.
It may be mentioned that the schools in Manipur have remained closed from the month of March last year due to COVID-19 lockdown.
Meanwhile, Manipur has now only 480 active cases of COVID-19 with 364 deaths and total positive cases of 28,579 while 27,735 recovered with a recovery rate of 97.04 per cent and 48 new cases on January 8, 2021.
Even Assam which has more COVID-19 fatalities than Manipur has now reopened schools for all classes from January 1 with the reopening of junior classes (nursery to class 6) from the same day. The classes from standard sixth onward were started from November 2 on a voluntary and shift basis. Before January 1, the students of classes 8, 10 and 11 were having their classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, whereas students of standard 6, 7, 9 and 12 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The colleges and other educational institutions in Assam have already resumed classes from November 2. However, full classes of high school and higher secondary schools in Assam resumed from January 1.
It may be mentioned that Assam has 1,059 COVID-19 deaths with total cases of 2,16,481 and 57 new cases which is higher than Manipur as on January 7.
Karnataka has total COVID-19 cases of 19,58,282 with 12,131 deaths and 761 new cases as on January 7.
However, the schools in Karnataka have reopened for classes 10th and 12th from January 1. The students will have to get written permission from their parents to attend classes. The Vidyagama programme for classes 6 to 9 will also commence next month. The colleges in the state were reopened on November 17.
In Bihar, there are a total 2,54,447 COVID-19 cases with 1,424 deaths and 433 new cases as on January 7. But the Education Department directed all university vice-chancellors, district magistrates and district education officers to restart offline campus classes for students from classes 9 to 12 from January 4 with 50 per cent capacity in classrooms. All higher educational institutions, private coaching centres and engineering colleges have been asked to adhere to the directive.
Tripura which found total COVID-19 cases of 33,299 with 388 deaths and 5 new cases as on January 7 has reopened the schools. The schools in Tripura had begun the teaching-learning process at the campuses for classes 9 and 11 from December 28. The classes for students of 5th to 8th standards resumed from January 4. However, no decision has been taken for classes 1 to 4. Earlier on December 7, the state government reopened schools for students of classes 10 and 12 in view of their board exams that are likely to be conducted from May 10.
Even Maharashtra which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India with total cases of 19,58,282 with 49,897 deaths as of January 7 has reopened schools. Reports said that the Pune Municipal Corporation has reopened its schools on January 4 for students of classes 9 to 12. Schools also gave instructions to teaching and non-teaching staff to attend from December 28. The implementation of the SOP issued by the state government on November 20 will be mandatory for schools.
The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has finally agreed to allow schools in the city to reopen and conduct campus classes for students from class 9-12 from January 4.
The Nashik civic body has decided to allow the reopening of schools across Nashik city on January 4 for students of classes 9-12.
Reports said the schools and colleges in Mumbai will not reopen till January 15. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to keep all government and private schools and colleges closed till January 15 due to the second wave of COVID-19. Earlier, BMC had decided to keep schools and colleges closed till December 31.
Puducherry having 38,369 COVID-19 total cases with 636 deaths and 35 new cases as on January 7 has reopened its schools from January 4. The schools will have half-day classes from 10 am to 1 pm, while full-day classes from January 18. The schools will follow all important guidelines, SOPs on COVID-19, reports said.
Punjab having total COVID-19 cases of 1,68,187 with 5,422 deaths and 277 new cases as on January 7 has reopened schools. The Punjab government has decided to reopen all schools from January 7 for students of classes 5 to 12. Reports said the decision to reopen all government, semi-government and private schools from January 7 has been taken as per the suggestions from stakeholders. The timings of the schools will be from 10 AM to 3 PM.
Odisha which has 3,31,151 COVID-19 cases with 1,888 deaths and 230 new cases as on January 7 has reopened schools for students of standards 10 and 12 from January 8 following the detailed standard operating procedures strictly implemented by the authorities. However, hostels will not reopen now and the school buses will not be available for the students. Parents can make their own arrangements to take their wards to schools.
Kerala which has 7,95,933 COVID-19 total cases with 3,234 deaths and 5,051 new cases as on January 7 has resumed classroom studies for classes 10 and 12 from January 1.
Gujarat having total COIVD-19 cases of 2, 49,913 with 4,332 deaths and 667 new cases as on January 7 will resume classes from January 11. Reports said the Gujarat government on January 6 has announced that schools for classes 10 and 12, and colleges for the final year graduation and post-graduation students will be reopened from January 11.
Rajasthan also having total COIVD-19 cases 3,11,620 with 2,727 deaths and 509 new cases on January 7 is ready to reopen schools from January 18. The Rajasthan government has announced that schools, colleges and other educational institutions will reopen in the state from January 18. Apart from this, the Medical College, Dental College, Nursing College and Paramedical College will reopen from January 11.
According to the academic calendar prepared by the state government of Sikkim, students of classes 11 and 12 are allowed to attend classes from October 19 on a voluntary basis. They can only attend classes after they get a consent form signed by their parents.
Similarly, classes 6-8 were resumed on November 2, and classes 3, 4, and 5 on November 23, all on a voluntary basis, and subject to the Covid-19 situation prevailing at that time. Though full classes are not opened yet, schools are partially reopened from September 21, with 50 percent of the teaching and non-teaching staff members reporting for work, and students from classes 9 to 12 attending classes on a voluntary basis.
In Mizoram reopening of schools has been tentatively scheduled for January 15, the state executive committee will take the final call regarding the date. The state education department also decided to continue with online classes till January 14.
The Nagaland government has decided to open schools for students of class VI onwards in the state from February 2021. The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio in Kohima on December 18.
Now, it is evident that several states have reopened schools for campus classes while others are planning to reopen from a tentative date.
Moreover, the Central Board of Secondary Education has announced that class 10 and 12 examinations 2021 will be held from May 4 to June 10 and many entrance tests are also on the pipeline.
In the meantime, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to prioritise activities. Different societies, countries and governments have chosen to act differently. Schools in China and many Southeast Asian countries have been opened creatively and innovatively following COVID-19 appropriate behaviours to keep up education of their children. But the European model has been to keep schools running as much as possible, with great innovations. Denmark and Norway opened schools early in April/May in a staggered manner — this didn’t lead to a second or third wave of infection there.
Therefore, the Manipur Government needs to give top priority about the reopening of schools. It will be better to let the schools decide how to open the schools following COVID-19 appropriate behaviours. Education is an essential activity which cannot be left in the wilderness. Schooling is also an inseparable part of the socialisation without which a good and successful citizen cannot be groomed. Ignoring schooling for a longer time will have long-term implications in society in many respects and the students of Manipur will lag behind their compatriots of the world.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics