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Reopening of schools: Parents wary as J&K COVID numbers register slight uptick

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File photo of an SMC employee sanitising a class in a Srinagar college earlier this month (KM/Umar Ganie)


Srinagar: Parents in Kashmir are not sure about sending their kids to schools this March after recent spike in COVID cases in several states of India, even as the numbers have shown slight uptick in J&K as well.  

Many of them told The Kashmir Monitor that while they were already unsure about reopening of schools, the spike in COVID-19 cases across several states of India in the last one week or so has made them more wary of the move.

 

Rawalpora resident Abid Bhat, whose 7-year-old daughter studies at a private school in Jawahar Nagar area of the city, said he has decided not to send her child to school.

“It is better to wait and continue with the online classes for another month or so. In fact, it would have been better to open the schools once the vaccine was made available to public,” he said.

Echoing Abid’s views, Abdul Rashid Rather, whose three kids study at a well-known missionary school in Srinagar, suggested that authorities should only reopen schools for classes 9th to 12th.

“Younger kids may be more susceptible to infection given that one cannot expect them to follow Covid-19 SOPs as strictly as adolescents or elders,” he said.

Five Indian states–Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh–have witnessed an upsurge in daily new cases in the last one week, becoming a cause of concern for their governments which are tackling the pandemic.

According to data, 87% of coronavirus cases have been reported from these states. To make matters worse, Punjab, like Maharashtra, has also shown a sudden spike in the number of daily new cases reported in last 7 days.

Data for the last 10-days in J&K also shows slight uptick in the number of reported COVID-19 cases.

From 45 cases on February 10, J&K reported almost double (81) the cases on Friday.

The daily numbers for the last 10 days from February 10 are: 45, 65, 91, 60, 73, 64, 58, 84, and 81 cases.

Srinagar has also witnessed some increase in the number of cases. On February 10, the summer capital recorded 23 COVID-19 cases which increased to 48 on February 18.

While authorities claim that schools are prepared and will ensure SOPs are followed in letter and spirit, many parents were baffled when school managements asked them to sign consent letters before the resumption of classes.

On Friday, Asma Goni, Convener of the Parents Association of Privately Administered Schools (PAPAS), regretted that the government had taken the decision to resume classes without their consent.

“We had hoped that the schools would reopen in a healthy environment but the authorities issued an order and they did not think it’s necessary to take our consent. Nobody bothered about the inconvenience that will be caused to the parents,” she told The Kashmir Monitor.

Goni said the parents were also asking if there were any provisions in case they do not send their children to school.

“If consent letter is being asked, who will be taking the responsibility? If any untoward incident happens where students or staff get infected, who will take the responsibility? The parents are already in a dilemma whether to send their kids to school or not. And in case they say no, what will happen to those kids,” she said.

Goni said parents associated with them were of the opinion that it was not safe for children up to Class VIII to resume school.

“As far as the parents in our group are concerned, they feel it is not the right time to go to school especially up to class VIII. It is difficult for them to adapt. It is not that Covid has ended and that the vaccination process is over. If we have sacrificed so much, we can wait for two more months till April end. And it is easy to discipline the children in school but once they are out, it is different,” she said.

Goni too said reports of school kids getting infected with the coronavirus from other states were worrisome.

Director School Education, Dr Muhammad Younis Malik told The Kashmir Monitor that the order to reopen schools stands.

“For now the order stands as of today,” he said.

Dr Malik that there will be no compromise on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and every school shall have to fully comply with health protocols after the reopening of educational institutions.