Thin attendance as schools reopen in Kashmir

Srinagar, Sep 21 (UNI) An extremely thin attendance was registered on Monday as the schools reopened after remaining closed since March owing to COVID-19 induced lockdown. “ Schools are not for regular classes but consultation”, Principal Secretary; School Education & skill Development Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon said . All educational institutions in the Kashmir valley were closed in March this year due lock down and restrictions imposed by the government due to COVID 19 pandemic.

Unlock 4 guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allow schools to partially reopen from September 21, stating that students from Classes 9 to 12 will be allowed to visit teachers for a limited time to seek guidance. The guidelines said parent consent is mandatory, and the relaxation does not apply to containment zones.

However, the reopening of schools evoked sharp reaction from political and social organizations besides parents who questioned the government’s decision alleging lack of proper facilities. Parents said they had to give an undertaking that if their children are infected the schools are not responsible for it which is totally unacceptable.

They further said the number of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths are witnessing daily increase in the valley.

A UNI correspondent who visited a number of High and Higher Secondary Schools (HSS) in Srinagar saw very few students, some of them in uniforms, attended their schools.

At Nawakadal in the down town there was hardly any student though teaching staff were present. However, the situation in Kothi Bagh Girls HSS was a little different as students, some of them in uniforms, could be seen in the schools wearing masks. ‘We have kept masks so that any student who is not wearing masks could be provided’, principal of the school said.

Similar reports were received from other parts of the Kashmir valley, where parents questioned the necessity for filing undertaking that school was not responsible if their children got infected. Why the school management and government cannot take responsibility, the parents asked.

Dr Samoon said “schools reopening Monday not for regular classes but consultation” by volunteer secondary students on consent of parents with 50 per cent teachers on roster as per MHA lockdown 4 guidelines and Minister of Health and Family Welfare protocols conveyed by chief secretary and circulated to Deputy Commissioners (DCs) Directors and Chief Education Officers (CEOs).

In reply to a question by a parent that there is no santization and no bothroom facilities in government schools, Dr Samoon said all Deputy Commissioners have been directed to monitor the functioning of schools.

Another parent to a question as a father, my child’s security is my primary concern and sending her to school could increase the risk of her catching COVID-19. The present pandemic situation and spike in Covid19 cases in Srinagar is a matter of enormous concern. You should reconsider your decision.

Dr Samoon said please keep her home. “Young kids not to attend schools, he said adding unlock 4 decision is collective and at apex level. He further said anyways only secondary school children can attend only with parents’ consent.

“More than Students , Teachers are much more worried as they are compelled to Join Schools . Everybody is aware about unLock 4 Guideline . But I believe it’s prerogative of Government to take decision and Union Territory (UT) government should be more sensitive towards their students & Teachers”, asked another parent.

However, Dr Samoon said no student is compelled; no regular classes, no compulsory attendance; senior students can volunteer to meet their teachers for guidance with parents’ consent with face masks, keeping safe distances & to observe all covid protocols.

Dr Samoon said there is no proposal yet to reopen Middle schools.

Schools remained closed from March though private schools were providing online classes to students, including minors, in the valley. The private schools charged full tuition fees from students. Online facility was not available for students of government schools who are from lower and lower middle class families.


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