Educational institution reopening warrants health safety stringency

Published: 00:00, Mar 01,2021


THE government’s decision to reopen educational institutions, which have been closed since March 17, 2020 as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 infection, is welcome. While schools, colleges and madrassahs will reopen on March 30, universities will reopen on May 24, with the reopening of halls of residences of public universities set for May 17. The reopening of educational institutions appears to be important in view of the Secondary School Certificate Examinations which usually take place in February and the Higher Secondary Certificate Examinations which usually take place in April. This is also important against the backdrop of weighted results of the Higher Secondary Certificate Examinations, which were to be held in April in 2020 but were unmanageably delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak, that the government published on January 30 based on the results of Secondary School Certificate and Junior School Certificate examinations of the students. The Higher Secondary Certificate being the gateway to higher education, the move came to be criticised and encouraged students meant to take the Secondary School Certificate Examinations in 2021 to hold protests for a similar promotion.

After the institutions reopen on March 30, Class XII and Class X scheduled to take higher secondary and secondary examinations will attend classes six days a week and Class V students five days a week. Other students will attend classes once a week by rotation. While teachers and others on the staff of all educational institutions and only students of universities may be vaccinated against COVID-19, it cannot be done in cases of students from Class I to Class XII. Here lies the risk as the education minister seeks to say that educational institutions will ensure the required facilities for adherence to health safety guidelines that the government will set and the other agencies concerned will monitor if the health safety guidelines are properly adhered to, enforced and implemented. The institutions may, therefore, find it difficult to adhere to or ensure health safety guidelines even if classes are held on a limited scale. In January, when the government was reported to reopen the institutions in the middle of February, educational institutions doubted their capability in this regard especially in that a third of 65,625 primary schools does not have facilities for hand washing and most of the government, non-government and private schools and colleges run with a limited number of facilities for hand washing. Besides, the government has not been known for a stringent implementation of health safety guidelines for all the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak because of indecision, inefficiency, negligence and insincerity in applying various measures that it came up with. Some non-government and private schools that time said that they could ask parents to provide students with hand sanitiser and masks, which parents thought would create an additional economic burden on them.

The government must, therefore, ensure that educational institutions stringently ensure health safety guidelines and other agencies strictly monitor adherence to the guidelines to head off any disaster.

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