Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

The physical classes for standard 6 and 7 students will be resuming in Odisha tomorrow on November 15. After the announcement by the Odisha government a week ago, schools have been prepared to welcome back the students after a gap of around 18 months due to the Covid pandemic. 

Considering the current situation of the pandemic, school authorities have given high efforts to keep the premises of their institutions COVID-free by observing compulsory cleaning of premises to sanitisation of classrooms. At many places, schools have adopted murals with awareness messages to spread alertness among the children on the virus. 

Even though children below 18-year-old are yet to get vaccinated, students seem to be quite excited as this will put an end to 'study from home' and they will be attending the physical classes after nearly a year and a half.  

"There is fear of Coronavirus, but we will follow the COVID restrictions as stated by the government. We will use masks and sanitisers and also maintain social distance within the classrooms. I am quite excited to attend the physical class after several months and study with friends," said Tapasya Rout, a class 6 student.

The COVID pandemic turned a big hurdle for education and students across the State after the announcement of the lockdown measures in the wake of the outbreak of Covid cases in March 2020. Despite arrangements for online classes, a majority of the students in the State were left in lurch due to various infrastructural to implementation issues. 

Now the announcement of physical classes for upper primary students has given a new hope of bringing the primary education sector back on track. Despite anxiety over the possibility of a third wave of pandemic, parents have welcomed the decision of physical class resumption.

"We faced difficulties during online classes. We can make queries and clear our doubts directly from the teacher in physical classes which we badly missed during online lessons," said a student of class 6.

"The schools remained shut for a very long time due to the pandemic situation. Moreover, children faced several issues during the online classes. They can clarify their doubts instantly from the teacher during physical classes. I welcome such a decision," said a parent. 

Meanwhile, teachers and faculties have also expressed confidence over running the classes without facing any troubles.

"Students, as well as their parents, are quite excited for the resumption of physical classes. We are strictly following the government's SoP to keep the school premises COVID-free," said Nilima Dey, Vice Principal of Saraswati Sishu Vidya Mandir, Balia.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Odisha government is resuming classes in schools across the State in a phased manner following the decline in cases of COVID. The government had allowed the resumption of the physical mode of classes for Standard 11 and 8 from October 21 and October 25, 2021, respectively. Schools for class 10 and 12 students were also reopened in Odisha from July 26, 2021.

While the State government is reopening the schools, children below 18-year-old are yet to get vaccinated. Around 2 months back, DCGI had given approval to Zydus Cadela's needless vaccine ZyCov- D meant for children between 12-18 years. Meanwhile, a vaccine meant for children between 2-18 years developed by Covaxin is waiting for a green signal of DCGI after being approved by subject experts. 

As per the health experts, the State is prepared to vaccinate children below 18-year-old. Children between the 12-18 age group will get the jabs in the first phase. 

"The government of India and ICMR are giving high efforts to start vaccinating children below 18-year-old by December 2021. However, I would like to request all parents not to get worried," said Paediatrician Dr Sunil Kumar Agrawal.