While the government’s decision to resume online lessons for students in grades 1 to 9 for two weeks from January 21 has prompted calls from one section for a rollback, parents are resigned to it and believe that there is no other recourse following a spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Omicron variant.
The president of the parent-teacher association of a large subsidized school says that the government could not have made any other decision. In any case, the schools were following the blended learning mode, with only 50% of students attending school on any given day, and the rest taking online lessons. Hopefully the decision to cancel in-person learning for young students will not extend beyond two or three weeks. The ongoing vaccination of 15-18 year old students would also help keep older students safe.
The decision was necessary, says the president of the parents’ association of a public school who is also a teacher. Students, he says, receive COVID-19 from teachers and other staff and then bring it home to their families. Many cases of COVID-19 are being reported in schools, especially as activities are in full swing. Remote e-learning, despite its limitations, is a better option at this point, although he would have preferred the decision to be made a few days later.
A parent of a class 3 student from the same school says there has been a positive change in her child since she started attending school and would have preferred in-person learning to continue, but with the increasing case graph, especially in Thiruvananthapuram, a move to online courses is preferable at this stage. Although young children are not easily infected, some parents remain anxious, especially those with low-immunity pupils, she points out, hoping the shift to online classes does not extend beyond two or three weeks.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases among school teachers and students cannot be ignored, says the principal of a girls’ school in the city. Nor the fact that many other states have also resorted to the same strategy. The government’s decision is likely to control the spread of COVID-19. The number of students coming to school had started to decline even before the government’s announcement, indicating parents’ apprehension. Despite the many benefits of offline courses, there was a need to adapt to changing circumstances.
A headteacher says she heard no opposition to the decision from her students’ parents. According to her, parents of younger children are always afraid to send them to school. Even before Omicron, the same group of students, more or less, showed up for offline classes. There were many students who had not attended physical classes once since November. While the numbers were better for students due to take the exams for classes 10 and 12, attendance at offline classes was low among many years.