By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, India, Sep 22 (efe-epa).- Some students in India returned to a thin attendance in classrooms on Monday as schools reopened partially in the country for the first time since March when educational institutions were closed as part of the curbs to check the spread of the coronavirus.
The reopening of schools is voluntary in select states and institutions and on the consent of parents, according to the federal government order.
Students and teachers in reopened schools maintained social distancing and wore protective face masks as per the government guidelines to prevent the further outbreak of the virus that has wreaked havoc across the country.
The partial reopening of schools is part of the government’s fourth phase of the relaxation of Covid-19 preventive measures even as the daily number of infections continues to rise across the country amid no signs of its peak as yet.
The pandemic has gripped the nation of 1.3 billion people who live in some of the most densely populated cities in the world and has claimed around 88,000 lives in the country.
India has recorded nearly 5.5 million coronavirus infections and is tipped to overtake the United States as the worst-hit country in the next few weeks at its current rate of increase in the number of patients.
The US, which is the worst-hit country, has some 7 million cases of the virus and 204,000 deaths.
According to the federal ministry data, over one million patients have tested positive in less than two weeks in India.
Despite the daily spike of cases showing no signs of easing, the government of India last month ordered the opening of schools voluntarily across the country as part of its desperate measures to revive the economy that seen the deepest contraction in decades.
The federal government allowed students from 9th to 12th classes to return to classrooms but many states like Maharashtra, Delhi, and Gujarat have said it was still too early to let children go back to schools where as online teaching and learning activities will continue.
The Tamil Nadu government also ruled out reopening of schools until the pandemic situation is brought under control.
“All classes will start functioning simultaneously when schools reopen in the state. There will not be classes in shift, as all the schools have adequate infrastructure,” the state’s Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan said over the weekend.
Likewise, the government in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, also ordered its schools to remain shut till further orders.
The government of the national capital region of Delhi last week announced that all schools would continue to remain closed till Oct. 5.
School heads were authorized to call “staff as per requirement for smooth conduct of online classes or any other work,” according to the Delhi government order.
But some states, like the troubled Himalayan region of Kashmir, allowed the reopening of schools.
Schools in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main capital, and its outskirts had an extremely thin attendance of students with parents strongly questioning the wisdom behind the order that puts lives of kids at the risk of contracting the disease.
A school on the outskirts of Srinagar had more teachers than students.
“Parents are not ready to send their kids. Their concerns are genuine,” a teacher told EFE, noting that schools had been opened “not for regular classes but consultations only.”