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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: It is hardly a week that the schools in Odisha have reopened post a nine-month-long COVID hiatus, and the rising infection among teachers and students has created a sense of fear among all. Magnify the issue, and one would not disagree with the fact that there is a tough job ahead for the school and mass education department considering the dangerous effects of the virus.

As mandated by the government, all teachers and students were asked to undergo Covid-19 test. The educational institutions reopened on January 8, 2021, for the conduct of classes for 10th and 12th students.

Around 20 students from various government and private schools in Laikera block of Jharsuguda tested positive for the Covid-19 virus on Wednesday. Similarly in the last seven days, as many as 26 students and teachers of various schools in Gajapati district have been found positive for coronavirus. If reports are anything to go by, 50-odd teachers and students across districts have contracted the virus during the period.

The worrying fact is despite following all guidelines issued by the government, the contraction threat in schools looms large.

Schools have been asked to ensure at least 100 days of classroom teaching prior to kick-starting the Board exams, and the authorities have claimed that guidelines are being strictly followed. Sanitisation measures are ensured inside and outside the class; social distancing maintained with proper seating arrangements. Teachers have been keeping a close watch to prevent gathering during intervals and lunch break.

Sonamika Ray, Headmistress of Capital High School in Bhubaneswar, said, "We had formed a monitoring and sanitising team, and they have been constantly keeping an eye on the students during the time classes are held. Around 100 students had come to school on the first day of reopening, the number of attendees has risen to 160. We expect a gradual rise in the number of students in the coming days."

State Health Minister Naba Das stated, "I have already asked the department to help them (those detected positive) with treatment facilities. They are kids, need proper care and problems associated with them must be dealt with carefully. The department has also been asked to limit the spread of the virus so that tentacles don't reach other schools."

With all precautionary measures in place, School and Mass Education Minister Sameer Dash has said that the situation is under control.

"Those who are developing symptoms, are immediately being tested and put under home isolation if found positive. But this has had not much of an impact on the studies as students are interested to attend the classes," the minister said.

DMET director CBK Mohanty predicts cases will decline once the inoculation programme kicks off. "Specific advisory and guidelines have been issued, which needs to be followed strictly. Mostly, adults will be covered in the vaccination programme. When community transmission will decrease, risk will reduce for the children and we may see fewer infections after that. School students are not going to be vaccinated because vaccines have only been recommended for people above 18. The best way is to adapt to the basic protection measures and follow all Covid protocols in place. This needs awareness, practice and monitoring," said Mohanty.

For 10th students, classes will be held till April 26, while courses of class 12 students will be covered before April 28.

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