Thiruvananthapuram: Less than 1,000 students and 300 teachers contracted COVID-19 after schools reopened in Kerala a month ago after remaining closed for a long time due to the pandemic. According to the state government, the figures indicate that the elaborate preparations carried out by the authorities and the good response of people were effective in checking the disease.
Over 40 lakh students and 1.75 lakh teachers reached schools across the state after the reopening. None of the schools in Kerala became a pandemic hotspot and had to be shut. This is in stark contrast to other states, where several schools were closed after COVID-19 cases shot up.
Anxiety during reopening
In Kerala, there was widespread concern when schools reopened on November 1. The state not only had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India, but a sero survey showed that a mere 40 per cent of children had antibodies against the disease.
Considering these aspects, government authorities anticipated a wave of the pandemic two weeks after the reopening. They had prepared an action plan to deal with the likely situation. Moreover, many parents were concerned and did not send their children to school during the early days of November.
However, the guidelines prepared jointly by the Departments of Education and Health were followed diligently and no outbreak happened. Preventive measures implemented included forming bio-bubbles with several batches of students, introducing shift system to prevent crowding and adhering to all COVID-19 protocols.
Effective action plan
The guidelines were charted out by a team led by Principal Secretary, Department of Education A P M Muhammed Hanish and Principal Secretary, Health Dr Rajan Khobragade.
The farsighted suggestions were implemented strictly by Education Department officials led by Director of General Education K Jeevan Babu. The officials conducted daily analysis of COVID-19 data from the school to state level. Their prior experience in conducting SSLC, Plus One and Plus Two exams when the pandemic was raging came in handy.
Wholehearted cooperation by teachers, parents, parent-teacher associations and the Departments of Local Administration and Transport enabled hassle-free and safe schooling. Moreover, all political parties, local body representatives and teachers’ unions offered support.
According to Kerala’s Education Minister V Sivankutty, students and teachers were quarantined as soon as they showed symptoms of COVID-19.
“This measure prevented the spread of the disease. The low incidence of COVID-19 among students and teachers after schools reopened proves that our teamwork succeeded,” he said.