16 Sep 2020  |   04:53am IST

Consider pandemic conditions before opening Classes IX to XII

Is Goa ready to open its schools, or rather just the higher classes so that students who are in Classes IX to XII can visit the schools to interact with teachers and get their diffculties solved and queries answered? While the State Education Department is sounding out school managements, headmasters and parent-teacher associations on the subject before allowing students to voluntary come to school to interact with teachers, there have been mixed reactions to the proposal.
Consider pandemic conditions before opening Classes IX to XII

As per the Centre’s latest guideline, students are permitted to interact with teachers from September 21 onwards, but the students need the consent of their parents before going to school. It is here that there arises a hurdle, as all parents are not willing to send their children to school.

Students in the higher classes are at a crucial stage of their educational career and those in Class X and Class XII will be answering the board exams a few months from now in March-April next year. In the competitive world we live in, the preparation for the board exams usually lasts for over a year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has upturned the academic year for students. Though online classes are currently on – let’s not dwell on connectivity here as the lack of it has already been well documented – not all concepts of certain subjects can be conveyed to students over the internet or through videos. It needs the personal touch. As such interaction across the table or in the classroom becomes very necessary. But, at the current point of time, when COVID-19 cases in the State are on the rise daily, is it advisable for students, even in staggered batches, to go to school?

Look at what occurred on Monday, when 25 Members of Parliament tested positive for COVID-19 at the mandatory testing before the session could start. Most are asymptomatic, which increases the danger of the virus spreading. How does anybody know who in the school could be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus? It would only be the testing of everybody that could help. Goa’s statistics are already too high, in per million cases much higher than the all India figure or even the world figure. The State has to exercise extreme caution in ensuring that the spread is not allowed to go further. Under these circumstances, is it advisable to allow students to go to school even on a voluntary basis, especially when most parents are reluctant to send their children to school at the present time?

The State should preferably wait a little longer before taking a decision in the matter, despite Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant directing the Education Department to start consultations in the matter. Nothing wrong with the consultations beginning, but the decision of allowing students of higher classes to go to school has to be based after hearing all the stakeholders invovled. At the present time one has to be more practical, and in this case Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho’s assurance that a collective decision will be taken following a review of the situation is welcome. Hopefully, that collective decision will be for the good of all involved.

If the COVID situation does not improve quickly in the State, the government will have to find new methods of reaching out to students, especially those of the higher classes. It is another fine balance that has to be met of safeguarding the health of the students and also enabling them to have the best of the educational facilities possible. Though visiting the school will be entirely voluntary on the part of the student, there exists the possibility of a spread in case of any infection. It therefore should be avoided until such time that the number of new cases shows a marked drop from the current numbers.