Excited children queued up at schools waiting for thermal scanning and a few parents anxiously kept a watch on them, concerned about their safety, as schools reopened on Monday for primary and junior classes in the national capital after prolonged closure in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus-induced restrictions eased, schools reopened for classes 9 to 12 on February 7, while classes nursery to 8 reopened from Monday. "From today schools for junior classes have reopened in Delhi. Younger kids were desperately waiting for schools to reopen. Childhood is incomplete without schools. I pray to God that we never have to close schools again," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Children, who were seen adjusting masks, were happy to be back and followed the instructions being issued by their teachers. Aryan, a Class 5 student at SDMC school in Shanti Nagar, said, "I'm happy schools are reopening and I'll get to meet friends. We have been asked to wear masks and carry sanitisers. I'm excited but I had to wake up at 6:30 am to reach school. That is the only downside."
"I'm happy that I'll be sitting in class, not at home. I'm feeling good and I hope schools don't close again," said another student Piyush. Several parents had come to schools to see off their children. "My child was in class 2 when COVID-19 started and now he is in class 5. Covid has impacted studies and it is good that schools are reopening. I hope students stay safe and study well," said Reena, a mother of two. Her younger son also got admission in the school in kindergarten. "I'm glad he's getting to attend school in person, not online."
"Students have suffered a lot because of lockdowns and shutdown of schools. They haven't gained much knowledge in the past two years. Hopefully, this cycle will end now and schools are now open for good," said Ritu, another child's mother. Schools in the city were briefly reopened before being closed again on December 28 last year in view of the third wave of the coronavirus driven by its Omicron variant.
While the Centre has dropped the clause that mandated parental consent for students to physically attend classes from its guidelines, the Delhi government has decided to continue with it. Schools are, however, free to decide on the number of students they want to accommodate based on their infrastructure, keeping in mind Covid protocols.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Hareesh HP, whose two children are studying in class 6 and 8, said he will be sending both to their private school as per its schedule. The school is going to conduct physical classes on specific days only, he said. "We have to learn to live with Covid. When markets, hotels, cinemas and the city are fully functional, why can't schools operate on all working days? I attended a school PTM recently, urging that schools be made fully operational and complete schooling resume like in pre-Covid times. Now, my children have to attend physical classes only for two days in a week which will not be sufficient to recover the time lost in terms of their academic learning, intellectual growth and mental conditioning" he said.
Poonam Yadav, who teaches class 3, said, "All students are very excited, we are also excited. Now, approximately, two years have passed but the basics of children are not very clear because they have been not coming to school. Several students have been attending classes from their hometowns and many haven't returned. We are contacting them." She said that many parents had assured her that their children would be returning soon. "We are hoping students will return soon. It will take time to return to pre-Covid normalcy. We are expecting 50 per cent attendance from today," the teacher said.
Rashmi Mishra, parent of a Class 2 student, said, "It felt different, sending my child to school after such a long time. Parting with him was difficult but the only thing that made me happy was that his screen time will now reduce and he will meet people, interact with them, play with his classmates. Of course, there is a fear of coronavirus but I have told him to be careful, sanitise his hands frequently and avoid touching his face often."
For Kamal Singh, whose two kids study at a private school in East Delhi, said he felt that kids are not learning as much as they used to in online classes "Their mental growth is not up to the mark, they are not so active in the morning while joining classes via mobile. We hope that the COVID-19 situation will remain under control and physical classes will continue for the future of school-going kids".
With PTI Inputs