The schools across the state are gearing up to get back to the old routine. Perhaps, post-Diwali, a substantial group will be back in schools.
A start in the state, however, would be made by October 4. But even as the state government has taken a major decision on reopening the schools, the parents of the kids remain a worried lot.
India Today TV talked to Dr Samir Dalwai, Consultant Developmental-Behavioural Pediatrician, Nanavati Max Hospital, and Member of the Maharashtra Paediatric Task Force on several issues.
Q. Schools are gearing up to restart physical classes. What is the viewpoint of the task force?
A: The Maharashtra government’s move to reopen schools is timely, and we support the decision. The state education department with the help of the State Paediatric Taskforce has drafted several guidelines to create a safe learning environment for children. We understand that Maharashtra is a large state and a uniform set of rules may not be applicable across all regions.
Hence, hyperlocal solutions can be taken by school-based committees involving PTA members, teachers, a principal, and a medical practitioner. These committees can at the micro level, revise school schedules based on student strength, classroom, and lobby infrastructure and ensure sanitation and safety of the school premises.
Schools can take additional safety measures within the framework of the state’s guidelines depending on their socio-economic culture.
Q. The parents will still be a concerned lot. How do you address their fears?
A: Most importantly, school attendance is not yet compulsory and parents can decide on their own. All parents have two major concerns. The first is the safety of their child and whether there is a chance of Covid-19 infection. All parents need to inculcate the habit of facial masks, social distancing, and regular handwashing in their children, so these habits are followed when in school.
Parents should avoid sending their children to school in packed vehicles like vans or rickshaws. With standard social distancing and adequate sanitation measures, children can attend school safely. Parents are also worried about the educational backlog.
Both parents and schools need to understand that a stationary vehicle, that hasn’t moved from its place for a substantial period, can’t suddenly be driven at high speeds. The ongoing pandemic is a global disaster and children may have suffered psychological trauma which they aren’t able to efficiently deal with or express. Emotional rehabilitation of the children should be our priority. Some relaxation in the syllabus is the need of the
hour. Q. What dos and don’ts should the parents keep in mind?
A: Sudden halt to the routine and online studies has disturbed the sleep and eating cycle of students. Though the school will start on October 4. parents should immediately start working on the child’s mental and physical transition into the oncoming school schedule.
The schedule should ensure that the child wakes up at least an hour before leaving home, so he or she will have enough time for bathroom routine, some minor exercise followed by breakfast. This way the child can go to school in a good, healthy mental state.
As soon as the child returns from school, he or she should bathe. The uniform should be washed daily. Some families may not afford multiple uniforms, such students should be allowed to wear any freshly washed set of clothes to school once in a while. Most importantly, parents should remain patient and work with the administration to create a safe learning environment rather than focusing only on academic excellence and the syllabus
Q. What guidelines have been suggested to the schools?
A: The state education department and the task force have suggested a comprehensive framework of guidelines to the schools and parents.
Most essential is to ensure social distancing, compulsory face-mask, and establish the daily schedule depending on student strength and
infrastructure of the classroom or lobbies. Schools have to ensure the safety and sanitation of the school premises at all times.
We have suggested the schools also create a health clinic /separate isolation room. These should be equipped with a standard thermometer, additional masks PPE, pulse oximeter. In case a child seems symptomatic, he or she can be isolated in these rooms to receive immediate medical care. It will also ensure the safety of other students and teachers. The schools can have one of the doctor-parents on-call to consult the plan of action during such emergencies. Most importantly, there needs to be planned relaxation in syllabus completion.
Each child has different learning abilities and pace. We cannot rush them into studying two years of syllabus within six months. Many children, who unfortunately couldn’t afford internet or mobile phones have suffered a lull in their education. For at least initial two weeks, the students should be greeted into a fun-filled happy environment, allowed to share their experiences of the pandemic, play together, and gradually transition into the academic routine. Some children may find it difficult to adapt if the schools and parents enforce a stringent schedule right from the start.
Lastly, the management should support teachers who have braved the grueling pandemic period no less than healthcare staff. Just like doctors, teachers should be rewarded and recognised as essential frontline workers publicly.
We are optimistic that the schools, with the support of the state education department and task force, will create a seamless and safe educational environment for our children. Q. Will, there be an inspection where the
guidelines are being followed or not? A: Yes, the state education department will ensure the guidelines are followed and children who are going to the school remain safe. Schools to reopen in Mumbai from October 04
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