The Maharashtra education department has put on hold its decision to reopen schools after objections from its task force on Covid. The government had announced on August 10 that schools can reopen from August 17 — a resolution was made and detailed SOPs were formulated on restarting classes for classes 5 to 12 in rural areas and 8 to 12 in urban areas.
But a day later, a cabinet decision was taken to put that resolution on hold after the task force unanimously voiced opposition.
A meeting was held between the education department and task force on Wednesday night, where Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was also present.
Asked about the apprehensions of the task force, one of its members told NDTV that children below the age of 18 are not vaccinated and an impending third wave could impact them.
Besides, proper infrastructure at schools to check temperature, wear masks, aligned benches, soaps and sanitizers are not in place. Training for the school staff is also not complete, he added.
But education minister Varsha Gaikwad was unaware that the government resolution was put on hold.
“We never gave a blanket decision,” Ms Gaikwad told NDTV. “We gave the final rights to the collectors and municipal commissioners of the districts. There is no question of having any differences with the task force. From the beginning while implementing law and order, we also took care of health and safety. So, I will get more information on what exactly happened,” she added.
According to the minister, because schools are shut for over a year, cases of school dropouts, child labour, child marriages have increased drastically.
The minister further said a survey done by the State Council of Educational Research has revealed that 81 per cent of the parents wanted schools to re-open. So in villages that are Covid-free, physical classes started for classes 8 to 12 from July 15.
Many people from under-privileged backgrounds want schools to open — like Rabia, who lives in Mumbai’s Mankhurd area. Rabia has a young daughter studying in Class 5. Her husband works in a garment store and the family is not well-to-do.
Electricity is also a big problem for her.
“Her father takes the phone with him to the shop. We don’t have any other smartphone. How will she study? It becomes difficult for us. I want school to open as soon as possible,” Rabia told NDTV.
Teachers, too, want schools to open, as many students are missing out on education.
Rajesh Singh, the president of the Aadarsh Shikshak Seva Sangh, said, “Government should restart schools now. But before they come out with a notification for it, they should consult every stakeholder so that there is no confusion in anyone’s minds”.