The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. District crisis management groups will have the final say in whether primary classes, residential schools and hostels will be reopened in their respective areas, a spokesperson for the district administration told TOI. If the crisis management group in a district feels the situation is not conducive, they may decide otherwise, he said. The decision comes at a time when active Covid cases have gone up by over 40% in two weeks and experts, including the AIIMSBhopal director, have warned that the third wave is knocking on the door.
Parents were taken by surprise, and wondered why primary classes are reopened at a time when the government itself is cautioning people about the third wave. “The government is doubling the number of paediatric ICU beds. How does it expect us to send our children for physical classes at such a time?” asked the parents of a class 1 child.
How can little kids be expected to wear a mask for so long in school and obey Covid precautions when we see adults ignoring Covid protocol all around?” asked the parents of a class 1 child, pointing out that physical attendance in higher classes continues to be dismal. “We are flabbergasted by this decision. I do not buy the argument that schools will be able to ensure that students of Class 1 follow Covid instructions. This is shocking,” said Kamal Vishwakarma, president of MP Parents Association.
Privately, some school authorities said that they hadn’t demanded reopening the primary section and that their focus was on classes 6-12. They have always said that it’s up to the government to decide the opening of primary classes.
The order issued by Madhya Pradesh school education department makes it clear that online classes will continue and it’s not mandatory to attend offline classes. Schools must follow Covid SOPs issued by the government, it says.
The same protocol is in force for higher classes, which opened weeks ago. Attendance barely averages 20% — that too taking into account the turnout at government schools which is significantly higher than in private schools.
The state government allowed reopening of classes 9-12 from July 26, and classes 6-8 from August 5. Schools assured they would follow Covid SOPs strictly, but very few parents gave their consent, apprehensive of the third wave.
Two months on, schools continued to witness poor attendance. Missionary institutions and several public schools have refused to open their campuses, saying the situation isn’t conducive.
Tuesday’s order says hostels for students of classes 8, 10 and 12 will run at 100% capacity, and at 50% occupancy for class 11 students.