Kerala still guarded on reopening schools; digital classes can't be the norm, says Minister

Photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: The second academic year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has commenced, but the Kerala Government is yet to take a call on reopening schools as the State is still in the grip of the disease even as it is on the wane in most parts of the country. The Education Minister, though, announced a phased resumption is likely.

The Department of General and Higher Education has however started assessing the ground situation so that schools and colleges could be reopened just as neighbouring Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Lakshadweep have already announced the decision on resuming in-person classes.

Since Kerala continues to report a much higher number of COVID-19 cases daily compared to other states, a decision on reopening educational institutions is unlikely to be taken in  haste.

A final decision would be taken after examining the outcome and situation in other states post reopening of schools in a few weeks from now.

Digital classes can't be the norm: V Sivankutty

Digital classes cannot be the norm. Schools will reopen in phases, Kerala Education Minister V Sivankutty said in the Assembly on Monday.

He cited a report that said 36 per cent of children taking online classes are experiencing headaches and neck pain, and 28 per cent had eye problems.

The decision will be taken on the recommendations of the Centre and the expert committee, the minister said. 

"The discussions are moving towards reopening of schools. The idea is to facilitate the return of at least half the number of students. The final decision would be taken after taking into account the central government's stand, the situation in other states, vaccination and the spread of COVID-19. The majority of the teachers are in favour of opening the schools,"  the education minister sttated.

Likely plan 

In the first phase, classes could be started for Class 9 to Class 12. The first quarterly exams of Plus-Two students in Kerala is scheduled to be conducted in September.

The admission process of the Plus-One class is yet to begin.

Under these circumstances even if schools are reopened in September, only the studies of Class 9 and 10 could be resumed.

Health Department alarmed

The Health Department has apprehensions about a further increase in COVID-19 cases in the State after the Onam festival in the latter half of August.

This threat too could be factored in while deciding on restarting in-person classes. 

Vaccines for graduate PG students

The Education Department is planning to administer the Covid vaccine to all final-year graduate and post-graduate students by August 31 to facilitate the resumption of classes by September 1.

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu decision

While schools in Karnataka will resume classes as early as August 23, Tamil Nadu schools will reopen only on September 1.

Both decisions came following a detailed review of the current COVID-19 situation in the respective states.

The Tamil Nadu government proposed to resume physical classes for students from Classes 9 to 12 from September 1 and allow re-opening of medical colleges in the State from August 16.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin arrived at this decision after reviewing the Covid situation with medical experts in light of a marginal rise in cases. The medical experts expressed the need to re-open the schools as the students were experiencing mental pressure since they were confined to their homes for months.

This was also creating "learning gaps" in society, the Chief Minister said in a statement.

Further, many children have no access to online education, he said.

Students and teachers of these institutions have been already inoculated with Covid vaccines, he said.

The Karnataka government has decided to reopen schools for students from class 9 to 12 from August 23.

The development came following a COVID meeting between Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and experts from the health and education fields, ministers and senior officials of the state government.

After taking stock of the COVID-19 situation in the state, Bommai said that the government has decided to impose a weekend curfew in districts bordering Kerala and Maharashtra and that the existing night curfew across the State will begin from 9 pm instead of 10 pm.

Currently, the night curfew in the state is from 10 PM to 5 AM.

"We have decided to reopen schools in two stages. In the first stage, classes 9 to 12 will start from August 23," Bommai said.

There are certain conditions for opening schools, as per which classes will be held in batches on alternate days and details will be given in the order, the chief minister said.

A decision on reopening primary and secondary classes up to class 8 will be taken August-end, after taking into account the possibility of a third wave and the intensity of COVID infections, the chief minister added.

Schools following Kerala syllabus outside State

Schools following the Kerala government syllabus in Lakshadweep, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will reopen from August 9, August 23 and September 1, respectively.

(With inputs from PTI)

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