The response from the students was not all that big. The fact that there were very few students on Day 1 of restarting physical classes X and XII indicates that parents are not comfortable sending their children to school while the COVID-19 pandemic still continues. On Saturday, following government instructions and putting standard operating procedures in place, high schools and higher secondary schools in the State opened the gates for their students who will in a few months time appear for the board exams. After months of online classes, since the beginning of the current academic year, the physical classes that have started are meant to prepare the students for the exam, following which they branch out to streams of their choice, in the case of Class X students, and into professional courses in the case of Class XII students.
These are important years for the students of Classes X and XII. But, it’s been a far from normal year for the students, who otherwise in these classes usually remain totally focused on their books as they plan their future careers. Not so this year. The students have been stuck at home interacting with teachers, tutors and colleagues online. It is not the same, and it was expected that the response to the restarting of physical classes would bring a bigger number of students to school. It didn’t happen and this is indicative that the parents and the children have put their health over their education, at least until the surging pandemic does not subside. While many may be expecting a vaccine to return to a normal life, the pandemic is not going to end soon and a vaccine is also not an immediate possibility. How then can the impasse created be resolved?
Perhaps starting the physical classes on a Saturday was not the best of decisions. The week ahead may be a better indicator of how parents and students respond to the physical classes. School managements are actually expecting a better response this week, a reason why many schools utilised the first day of classes to impress upon students the need to follow the SOPs. Many schools are also considering not ending their online classes as there are students who will opt to continue their education from home. The weeks ahead, until the December mid term holidays, could be a sort of trial period for the physical classes and based on the response the way ahead mapped out not just for these classes but others too. Right now it is only Classes X and XII that have reopened, even colleges have not opened their doors, though neighbouring Karnataka has already started classes for colleges.
For that matter, it is interesting that the response in rural areas was better than in the urban areas. One reason could be the lack of internet connectivity in the villages that was a major drawback to students throughout the months when they were undergoing online classes. This may have brought them to the schools in bigger numbers than students from urban areas who did not face the problems of connectivity to such an extent. The restarting of classes gives these students the much-needed attention that they were lacking. Despite, the poor response on the fist day, this is a start, nevertherless, and will give pointers of how to have a seamless, or one that is as seamless as possibe, academic year. It will also bring about confidence among parents and students for when the other classes start. But here the government has to be circumspect. While it may be advisable to start classes for students of higher classes, it may not be the same for the lower classes.