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Despite declining trend in COVID-19, challenges remain in opening schools, colleges
IFP Editorial: We understand the merits of resuming physical classes in the interest of the students in view of the declining trend in positivity rate in the last few months and resumption of other activities. Yet, there are still few challenges which needs to be dealt with.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated on 11 Nov 2021, 4:26 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)

(Representational Image: Unsplash)

 

The Manipur government has finally given the nod to reopen schools, colleges and other educational institutions from November 10 onwards for class 9 and above, including all undergraduate and post-graduate courses. The government notification said, the order was issued in consultation with Home and Health department. Education Minister S Rajen Singh said the decision to resume classes was taken after observing the decreasing trend of COVID-19 positive cases in the state in the past few months and conditional relaxation of public activities granted in the state. However, the reopening of educational institutes shall be subject to strict adherence of all SOP or guidelines issued by the Health Department while a separate vaccination protocol has also been issued. The protocol said, vaccination of staff and students are encouraged and all non-vaccinated teaching and non-teaching staff including those who got only the first dose of the vaccine are to be tested for COVID-19 every 20 day and submit the RT-PCR reports to the head of the institution. The order further said that the attendance of students must not be enforced and shall be purely based on parental consent while teaching hours will be limited to three to four hours for both online and physical classes. No cultural or sports events will be permitted and any specific arrangement regarding the compliance of SOP has to be settled at the level of the head of the institution. The government further seeks to involve the district administration and health officials to monitor the resumption of classes in a safe environment.

We understand the merits of resuming physical classes in the interest of the students in view of the declining trend in positivity rate in the last few months and resumption of other activities. Yet, there are still few challenges which needs to be dealt with. Among various measures, vaccination of all teaching and non-teaching staff (preferably in two doses) is being considered to ensure safety in schools/colleges. Well, the new protocol implies vaccination as a voluntary exercise instead of making it compulsory for all those attending schools or colleges, be it students or teachers and non-teaching staff. For those students of 18 and above years, many of them were fairly vaccinated, if not all.Let us assume, most of the students in higher secondary schools are above the age of 18, who are eligible for vaccination. Yet, the government has decided to include Class IX and X also in which most of the students are under the age of 18 and therefore not vaccinated. Whether Home department in charge of disaster management and Health department has taken this aspect into consideration is beyond our comprehension. 

On the other hand, the implementation part is certainly going to be tricky for lack of resources and adequate infrastructure in our schools. The first hurdle is providing adequate space for maintaining physical distancing of six feet between benches. The government order had suggested classes on rotational basis or in a staggered manner to be able to maintain the requisite distance. Yet we must say, the present number of classrooms or the space available in classrooms in our schools would simply not be enough to put physical distancing into practice. For those government schools with only a few students spacing would not be problem, but for some reputed government high schools or higher secondary schools there simply would not be enough classrooms to implement the SOP. More so, in the case of multitude of private schools with thousands of students on their rolls, which are today run like factories or broiler farms. In providing adequate space for physical distancing, the private establishments would certainly be hiking the school fees. It would be the same with the school van services. And the burden would fall on the parents and guardians.

-Editorial

 

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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