Mrunal Manmay Dash

With the daily COVID caseload in Odisha going the downslope, educationists and parents in the State bat for the opening of schools as the long lockdown in schools have taken a toll on the school-going children.

The demand gains force when states like Maharashtra (top Covid hotspot in the country) had gone for opening the schools on January 24. Not only Maharashtra, states like Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have also reopened their schools on Tuesday.

Neighbouring state West Bengal government will soon resume the academic session as schools there will commence classes from Thursday.

In the above backdrop, the dithering by the Odisha government on school reopening has baffled many academicians so much that they questioned the intent of the State School and Mass Education Department.

Academician, Pritish Acharya said, “The COVID infection rate has come down and its severity has drastically reduced. In such a scenario, the classes for 10th and 12th need to be reopened in the State.”

“Students from standard 1 to 5 have not seen the classroom for two years. Government has to immediately bring them to classrooms or else the children will suffer from irreversible academic losses” he added.

But the health experts have a different take. They call for exercising caution. No hasty decision should be taken to bring the kids back to the classrooms

Physician, Dr Sunil Agrawal said, “Children are still unvaccinated. The virus behaviour is unpredictable. So, it will not be wise to reopen schools at this fluid situation.”

Meanwhile, reports suggest at many places students are attending doubt clearing classes in schools.

The Head Master In-Charge of Balichai High School in Ganjam’s Polasara block, Balmiki Pradhan said, “The students are not getting the benefits of online class owing to poor network connectivity and unavailability of smartphone sets. So we have been conducting doubt clearance classes for classes 9 and 10 in the school under the government’s COVID guidelines.”

Similar instances have come from Parabeda Primary School in Koraput’s Jeypore town, where class-2 students were seen studying on the school verandah,

Justifying holding of classes, Sanghamitra Bhukta, the Head Mistress of the school said, “We have to open the school after the parents asked us to do so for the future of their children. However, we are imparting teaching by adhering to the Covid guidelines of the government.”

Hearing a petition on the reopening of schools, the Orissa High Court has put the ball on the State government’s court advising it to take a decision in the next two months, taking into account the overall pandemic situation in the State.