Educational institutions reopened in Telangana on Wednesday but the student attendance was thin on the first day. Barring residential, social welfare, and tribal welfare schools with hostel facilities, all schools re-opened but very few students attended the classes as the majority of parents remained apprehensive about sending their wards.
A festive atmosphere was seen at few schools as students attended the classes for the first time for the current academic year. School staff was seen checking the body temperature of students and giving them hand sanitizer at the school entrance.
The students, wearing face masks, sat in the classrooms by maintaining social distancing. Since only 15-20 per cent of students had turned out on the first day, the school managements faced no difficulty in ensuring social distancing. Students expressed happiness over returning to schools after a long time and said the offline classes will help in the learning process.
Teachers briefed the students on the precautions to be taken during their stay on the school premises. Most of the schools announced conducting physical classes till the afternoon. They said timing will be extended later depending on the students' responses.
However, some private schools did not open on Wednesday as they remained undecided on whether to conduct offline classes or online classes.
The Telangana High Court on Tuesday left it to school management to have either only offline or only online or both online and offline classes. The court also made it clear that students should not be compelled to attend offline classes and that they should not be penalised for not attending schools. The court also directed the government not to punish schools that are not willing to conduct offline classes.
As per the orders of the high court, the government directed the director of school education to lay down Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed by all school managements conducting classes offline within one week and give them wide publicity in print and electronic media.
The court stayed reopening of residential, social welfare, and tribal welfare schools with hostel facilities. It directed the education department to submit a report in four weeks on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed in these schools.
The government has also taken note of some school managements making parents sign declarations that the management will not be responsible if the children get infected while in school.
"Any undertaking obtained from parents by any school management absolving the school management of any liability if the child gets infected with virus, while in school, shall not have any legal effect," said a government communication issued after the court order.
Meanwhile, Telangana Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan visited Raj Bhavan School to see the arrangements made on reopening. She said the school authorities cleaned the premises and students came happily to the school.
"Students should be explained about the preventive measures to be taken. There is a need to take all precautions till children get vaccinated," she said.
Education minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy visited a government school in Vijayanagar Colony and reviewed the situation there. She told reporters that 40 per cent of the students attended schools on the first day. She claimed that parents are willing to send their wards to schools.
The minister said departments concerned were taking all measures to ensure sanitization of the school premises. She said the authorities were taking all precautions.
The minister said out of 60 lakh school students in the state, 20 lakh are studying in government schools. She said there were 2.5 lakh new admissions in government schools across the state this academic year. The government permitted the reopening of all educational institutions across the state from September 1.
After a gap of nearly 11 months, educational institutions in the state had re-opened in February this year but due to the surge in Covid-19 cases during the second wave, they were shut down from March 24. However, online classes continued for students. For a second consecutive year, no exams could be conducted for classes 1 to 10 due to the Covid pandemic. All students were promoted to the next class.