Mixed emotions to school reopening

Parents are worried about the physical and emotional repercussions of online learning on children, while also fearing the difficulty in following COVID-19-appropriate behaviour in schools.

The government decision to reopen schools has evoked mixed reactions from students, parents, and teachers.

While it has been welcomed by many parents who are worried about the physical, social, and emotional repercussions on children of such a long gap away from physical schooling, others are worried about the COVID-19 numbers that seem to have plateaued the past few days. Many parents are concerned that primary students may find it difficult to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour, especially as vaccinations for children are shrouded in uncertainty.

A teacher at Government Vocational and Higher Secondary School for Girls, Manacaud, says it is time students returned to school. “We cannot even begin to understand what the students, especially girls, are going through.”

Younger students have been the worst affected, he feels. Many have had no experience of learning in schools, and all-round development has suffered.

Teachers too are stressed by the demands placed by online classes, he says, acknowledging that there are a lot of practical difficulties involved in bringing children back to school.

Indu S., who teaches at St. Thomas Central School, says her students in the board classes are excited even as they are apprehensive about schools resuming just ahead of their first term examinations. “They fear exposure, and would rather things continue the way they are till their exams are over.”

There are also concerns that students may take the infection home.

Teachers are anxious if they will be required to teach in shifts, whether there will be 50% attendance for children on a day, and if they will have to take both online and offline classes.

Hybrid learning under consideration for school reopening

Regulating student presence in communal spaces such as playgrounds, buses, and during lunch breaks are other aspects on which clarity will be needed.

Financial worries

Many parents, already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and income, may feel the squeeze much more when schools reopen.

The Principal of a government school in the city that mostly has students belonging to financially backward families says once schools start functioning, parents will have to pay the fees. Students who do not get free uniforms will also need to purchase at least two sets. This will impact household budgets further.

Government school students will be spared school bus expenses, courtesy student concessions, but private school students will not be so lucky. Other expenses such as school bags and shoes may also prove to be burden to families, says Ms. Indu.

Kushani Devna Ardra, a Plus Two student at Government Higher Secondary School for Girls, Cotton Hill, says that although worries about COVID-19 persist, she is glad to be going back to school not only for the sake of studies but also because she can meet her friends and hang out with them. “Online interactions are not just the same,” she avers. Offline classes where she can see her teachers directly will be a great change for her from the monotony of online classes.

Her mother Geetha too will be happy to see her daughter back in the school environs for improved physical and mental health. Academically too, the initial momentum of online classes has been difficult to sustain, though the support provided by teachers has been good, she feels. That children are said to be less susceptible to the disease gives her more confidence.

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