Schools across Maharashtra resumed physical sessions for classes 5 to 12 on Monday after being shut for over one-and-a-half years in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with students being welcomed back on campuses with flowers, balloons, sanitisers, and social distancing protocols. Students appeared excited while entering the schools and meeting their friends, classmates, and teachers after a long gap.
At the school gates, authorities ensured that all the students wore proper masks and sanitised their hands before entering the premises, and only one student was asked to sit on a single bench in classrooms. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the decision to reopen schools was a “very difficult” one and appealed to teachers and parents to take care of the students.
Until now, schools were conducting physical classes only in those areas which were reporting relatively fewer COVID-19 cases. According to the Maharashtra education department officials, more than 4,700 schools in urban areas and 21,000 schools in rural areas reopened for classes 5 to 12 on Monday.
“Over 20 lakh students for classes 5 to 12 attended the school on Monday in rural areas. In urban areas, of the 15,05,331 students, 5,25,749 students attended schools on the first day,” Vikas Garad, Deputy Director, Maharashtra Council of Educational Research and Training. There are 25,588 schools for classes 5 to 12 in Maharashtra while in the urban areas, the number of schools for classes 8 to 12 is 6,421. Last month, Maharashtra’s School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had announced that physical classes will resume in schools across the state and the government also issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for it.
On Monday morning, the minister in a tweet said, “Wishing all parents and students the very best as schools reopen across the state today. We hope you enjoy your first day back in a safe atmosphere.” According to the Maharashtra government, physical sessions have started for classes 5 to 12 in rural areas and classes 8 to 12 in urban areas of the state. But, the physical classes have not yet been resumed for classes 1 to 4 in rural areas and classes 1 to 7 in urban areas.
As per SOPs issued by the state government for the reopening of schools, students don’t need to attend physical classes. If they want to attend, they will have to submit consent letters from their parents. CM Thackeray on Monday unveiled the logo of a campaign called ‘My Student: My Responsibility’ in the presence of minister Gaikwad and other dignitaries at his official resistance ’Varsha’ in south Mumbai.
Speaking on the occasion, Thackeray said the decision to reopen schools was a “very difficult” one. ”Today, we are seeing the gates of schools have opened, but it is not just the gates which have opened, it is the door of their future and progress. The decision was taken very carefully,” Thackeray said, adding that he always consulted the task force concerned before taking such decisions.
The chief minister said this was the most challenging time in the lives of students, and appealed to parents and teachers to take proper care of students. “Take responsibility for your child. If a teacher does not feel well, he/she should undergo a test immediately,” he said.
Thackeray also suggested keeping doors and windows of classrooms open for proper aeration, disinfecting them when students are not around and keeping classrooms and toilets clean. He also asked authorities to ensure that students wear masks and follow the social distancing norms. ”We will continue our education with the determination not to close schools once they are opened,” Thackeray said.
Before the function, Gaikwad visited a few schools in Mumbai, including a municipal school in the Colaba area, and interacted with students and teachers. Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar also visited a municipal school in the Worli area and spoke to teachers and students there.
At a school in suburban Jogeshwari, teachers and school management members showered flower petals on students when they entered the premises. Various schools welcomed the students with ’rangolis’ (colourful traditional patterns), flowers and balloons on the first day of reopening of the institutions.
Many students seemed excited after coming back to school and meeting their classmates and teachers physically. In neighbouring Pune, students were seen excited while entering their schools and authorities welcomed them back.
Anagha Mande, principal of the city-based Ahilyadevi High School For Girls, “We made special arrangements to welcome students on the campus. Masks and sanitisers were distributed to students on their arrival.” A person dressed up as a clown was seen welcoming students at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy of E-Learning School & Science Junior College, and teachers greeted the students with flowers. At many places, instead of the school transport, parents came to drop the students outside the educational institutions.
“Even though the offline classes have resumed, we made the online session of the same available for students who are joining classes from home,” said a principal of another school while welcoming students back on the campus. NCP MP Supriya Sule visited a zilla parishad school in Pune and welcomed the students with flowers.
“With the arrival of students, the schools (vidyamandirs) have once again been truly beautified,” the Lok Sabha member from Baramati in Pune said in a tweet. Maharashtra Headmaster Association state spokesperson Mahendra Ganpule told.