Pradeep Pattanayak

Even though Odisha is yet to report Omicron positive case, the fear of infection by this new variant which transmits six times faster than delta virus has made parents hesitant to send their wards to schools. 

After attending online classes for two years since the outbreak of the pandemic, students from Class VI to X are now attending offline classes. As the initial poor attendance just started improving and the schools are limping back to normalcy, another variant in the form of Omicron emerged. The fear of Omicron has gripped parents as well students so much that the attendance has started decreasing. 

However, Class X students said they have no option but to go to schools as their examinations are fast approaching. 
“My parents are against my going to school due to Omicron fear. Yet I have to attend classes,” said Kruti Mohanty, a Class X student. 

Similarly, the parents said they too have no choice but to send their children to schools. “Since the positive cases of Omicron are increasing in India, we are in fear and apprehension. Considering the future of our children, we are sending them to schools,” said Pikina Das, a guardian. 

Informing about the measures being taken to keep the virus at bay, headmaster of Kumujharia High School in Biramitrapur in Sundargarh district Sanjay Samal said they are laying emphasis on wearing of masks, social distancing and hand washing on the school campus. "To keep the school campus neat and clean has been our top priority. This apart, we are ensuring proper education to our students," Samal added. 

While ambiguity regarding the third wave is still there, the increasing cases reported from educational institutions have been a matter of great cause of concern for the time being. None can guarantee that Omicron will not enter schools. This has led to the education department to think about bringing in some changes in school hours.

While Class VI and VII students are presently going to schools at 9:30 am and returning at 1:00 pm, classes of Class VIII and IX start at 9:00 am and continue till 12:30pm. And Class X students’ classes start at 10:00 am and end at 1:30 pm. It means, these students are at their school at the same period of time, which increases the fear of spread of infection among the students. 

Dr Sarat Behera, a health expert, said Omicron’s infection rate is high. Students at educational institutions should follow Covid-19 guidelines like mask wearing, maintaining social distancing and frequently sanitise their hands. 

In this regard, School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash said after school hours, the students mix with their family members, relatives and others which may be a cause of concern. However, the district administrations have been asked to ensure strict adherence of Covid-19 guidelines in educational institutions in their respective districts. They are closely monitoring the situation.