The Delhi government’s education department officials will hold a meeting on Thursday discuss the Unlock 5 rules issued by the Union home ministry on Wednesday. According to the latest guidelines, the decision for opening schools and coaching institutions in a graded manner can be taken by the states/union territories after October 15 “in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation”.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will take the call in notifying the relaxation order by the central government guidelines. The DDMA is chaired by L-G Anil Baijal and CM Arvind Kejriwal is it’s vice-chairperson. However, the education department will be entrusted with working out the modalities on how the relaxation is to be implemented, once permitted.
Reacting to the MHA guidelines, a senior official from the deputy chief minister’s office on Wednesday said, “We had announced for closure of schools till October 5 in the capital. This gives us time to go through the guidelines, consult stakeholders, and take the decision on the reopening of schools in the national Capital. We will hold a meeting on Thursday.”
Even though the last guidelines issued on August 29 allowed voluntary school visits by students of classes 9 to 12 for guidance from September 21, the Delhi government had announced on September 18 that all schools in the Capital would remain closed for till October 5.
Schools across the country were shut in March in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Classes are being conducted online, and links to online study material are being sent to the students via WhatsApp, emails and SMS.
Aparajita Gautam, president of Delhi Parents’ Association, said parents are still not keen on sending children to the schools. “The standard operating procedures (SOPs) did not instil any confidence among parents. They know it won’t be followed or implemented properly. We prefer online classes because we don’t want to take any chances.”
School administrators are, however, concerned about the students who would be appearing for board exams next year. “It is difficult to conduct laboratory practicals for board students online. We think schools should be made operational in a staggered manner with extensive safety protocols and by taking parents into confidence. As a part of our internal survey, we found out that around 35% of parents in our school were in favour of reopening schools. The Covid-19 situation might also be relatively improve by October 15,” said Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Rohini.
Awadhesh Kumar Jha, principal of Sarvodaya Co-ed Vidyalaya in Rohini Sector-8, said, “Even though, government school children might face more difficulties than private school students due to irregular access to devices or internet, reopening schools might be difficult after October 15. The number of Covid cases are still high and teachers, too, are still afraid to join duties. Maybe we can begin with calling class 10 and 12 students once a week. But we are awaiting a decision by the directorate of education.”
The latest guidelines state that if students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so. Students may attend schools/ institutions only with the written consent of parents and attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent.
According to the guidelines, higher education institutions with PhD scholars and post-graduate students in science and technology stream, requiring laboratory or experimental work, will be allowed to reopen from October 15. For central universities, the head of the institution will determine “the genuine requirement” of research scholars. For state and private universities, the decision will be taken by the state government.
JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar said, “The guidelines have only given an option to reopen universities for research scholars and postgraduate students and it is not compulsory. We will hold a meeting with all our deans in a couple of days to decide on the matter.”
DU Dean of Colleges Balaram Pani said, “In order to ensure that the work of PhD students is not affected, we have already allowed some of them to access laboratories. After October 15, we will also allow MPhil students and postgraduate students.”