VOICES ANAND NEELAKANTAN ANUJA CHANDRAMOULI SHEILA KUMAR RAVI SHANKAR S VAIDHYASUBRAMANIAM SADHGURU JAGGI VASUDEV THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT FEBRUARY 28 2021 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Present Tense, Future Hazy Schools are slowly reopening, and teachers and students are returning to their familiar surroundings. Parents are hopeful. The most common question being asked is: will the future ever be ‘normal’ again? Only a small section of the more 250 mn school-going children in India was able to access than online classes during the pandemic EMPTY CLASSROOM 1.6 bn learners in 199 countries worldwide were affected by school closures By V KUMARA SWAMY P erched on a verdant hill, overlooking an evergreen lake, one couldn’t ask for a better setting for a residential school. But the pandemic forced the sprawling campus of Heritage Girls School, around 20 kilometres north of Udaipur, Rajasthan, to remain shuttered for the most part of last year. Although students from across the country attended their online classes, almost every day, from the comfort of their homes, life was simply not the same. However, there was much rejoicing among the students when the school administration first broached the topic of reopening the institution with the parents, sometime in December last year. About 24 million children are at a risk of dropping out of school, which would reverse global progress made on school enrollment In India, the midday meals scheme has been shown to decrease calorie deficits in children by 30 percent More than 39 billion in-school meals were missed globally due to school closures Schools play an important role in the direct provision of health and nutrition services in the first 8,000 days of a child’s life that are critical for their development Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 370 million children have not been receiving a school meal in 150 countries. At approximately 100 million, the largest number of beneficiaries of school-feeding programmes is in India. Source: ‘Covid-19: Missing More Than a Classroom’, a report by UNICEF Office of Research and the United Nations World Food Programme “We have created stringent Standard Operating Procedures and our personnel have been trained thoroughly. We have invested in the required infrastructure and equipment to sanitise the premises and keep it safe. Covid Safety Manuals have been created for our schools and a special team called CERT (Covid Emergency Response Team) has also been set up.” Sumitha Christopher, Principal, Ryan International School, Chennai Since the Heritage Girls School is fully residential, the administration took every step conceivable to make it Covid-proof. All the teachers and support staff were ordered to stay within the campus, only two students per dormitory were to be allowed as opposed to six before the Covid-19 outbreak. Classrooms and dining halls were to maintain strict social distancing norms, masks were compulsory and so was daily temperature. There would also be random tests at regular intervals. “Each one of us took the Covid test before we were allowed inside the campus and our administrative wing, which interacts with the world outside, was to be completely isolated. Since the first week of January when the first batch of children started coming in, we haven’t had a single case of Covid,” says Tulsi Bhatia, principal of the school. Such precautions may not be considered over-the-top for a residential school like Heritage, but others haven’t lagged behind either. Take, for instance, the Ryan group of institutions, whose schools are spread across the country “We have . created stringent Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and our personnel have been trained thoroughly We . have invested in the required infrastructure and equipment to sanitise the premises and keep it safe. Covid Safety Manuals have been created for our schools and a special team called CERT (Covid Emergency Response Team) has also been set up. Clear guidelines have been made available to the entire staff, in line with standard safety protocols of masks, social distancing, and sanitisation,” says Sumitha Christopher, Principal of Ryan International School, Chennai. But not all schools in India, estimated at more than 1.5 million, can be expected to have the wherewithal or the desire to go to the extent affluent schools have, to keep their students out of harm’s way . With the Central Government, in September, coming up with guidelines to allow physical classes in a phased manner, many schools are testing the waters. And at least since January one can hear the , familiar, but muffled noises of students around schools from across the country . THE NEW NORMAL Schools understand that reopening is fraught with Turn to page 2 “Many of us are hoping for good marks in our practicals to pass our science exam. Maths is another area where many of us had almost no guidance although some of our teachers were helpful during the lockdown. Honestly, things like Covid-19 and lack of social distancing don’t matter when we think of our exams.” Brijendra Yadav, Class X student, New Ashok Nagar Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Delhi
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