Patna: Sangita and her husband Manish Kumar Singh, residents of Patna, refused to send their son and daughter to their school that has reopened on on Monday, September 21, nearly after six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. They are in favour of online classes instead of sending their wards to school as they think that the threat of the pandemic is far from over.
Earlier this month, the Bihar government had permitted schools outside containment zones to open and invite students of Class 9 to 12 who voluntarily wish to visit schools for seeking academic guidance with a written consent of their guardians from September 21.
“Why should we put our children at risk of getting COVID infection by sending them to school that reopened from September 21 in Patna following the government’s order. Who will take guarantee of full proof health of our children if they attend classes in school? We have simply refused to send them to school in view of COVID threat,” said Singh, a Patna-based businessman, who is also facing a difficult time in reviving his garment shop that has witnessed more than 70% decline in earning since the lockdown began in March this year.
Singh’s son is a student of Class 10 and daughter is in Class 12 at a reputed English medium private school in the town. His wife Sangita, a housewife, said, “We will not send our children to school till COVID ends or the vaccine arrives. COVID cases are rising in the country, there is no way to control its spread. India is one of the top in COVID cases in the world, in such a situation how can we send our children to school? By re-opening schools the government is trying to send a message that normalcy has returned but it is far from the truth. The fear of COVID is very much here and we cannot take any risk.”
The Singhs have not given the written consent to their children to visit the school as per the government order.
Similarly, Ajay Kumar and his wife Sujata Kumari, too, did not send their son, a student of Class 11 to school on Monday. “I have informed the school last week in writing that we will not send our son when the school asks for permission,” Ajay, a social researcher, told NewsClick.
He added that most of the parents of school students have refused to send their children to school. Parents are in the grip of fear in view of the increasing cases of COVID-19 across the country. There is a common feeling that sending a student to school will result in likely exposure of senior family members to COVID-19 as well, because social distancing and sanitisation are not possible in school, he said.
Also read: Bihar: Four-fold Rise in COVID-19 Cases Within a Month
Sujata said, “Like other parents we also lack confidence to send our child to school. In Patna, despite repeated claims there has been a complete failure to implement precautionary measures in public places like markets. Who will take care of children to ensure that they will not remove mask in school and will maintain social distancing?”
Afsa Tarannum and her husband Kalam Ahmad, whose son joined Class 11 at a new school, also did not send their ward to school. They were hopeful that after their son passed Class 10 this year amid the pandemic and joined another school, he would be able to classes by August or September. However, now with the schools re-opened and the pandemic still raging, they could not bring themselves to send their son.
“With COVID around and cases rising, it is a full risk to send our son to school. It is neither a good idea nor a good move. If a student will go to school they will not be able to maintain social distancing. There will be more tension than studying at home through online classes,”Ahmad ,a government employee said.
Tarannum, who runs a home tuition centre for middle classes, said that online class is not a good option but it is a practical option during a period of crisis like now.
The above cases are among hundreds of parents who have refused to send their children to school. This was revealed by data accessed by NewsClick of different private schools (St Xavier High School,Baldwin Academy and St Bosco Academy), which ask parents for their permission and their views for sending their children to school.
As per the data, 80% to 85 % parents have refused to send their children to school. For example in St Xavier High School, the administration approached parents of 297 students of Class 9 and 10 seeking their permission to send their wards to school from September 21. But as many as 200 of 297 parents refused to send children to school.
At Baldwin Academy, only 61 of 800 students' parents agreed to send their children to school. While 500 of 600 students' parents of Don Bosco Academy refused to send their children to school.
Unlike private schools, the government run schools will remain closed till the state government issues order and guidelines.
Also read: COVID-19 Spread: Is Bihar Masking Ground Reality?
Earlier the central government has issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) including staggering of the classrooms, no sharing of objects, separate timing slots, physical distancing and sanitisation of premises for phased reopening of schools.
However, Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh maintained that the number of COVID-19 cases are declining as testing has increased in the state. He said that on September 20, Bihar had reported 1,555 new cases, taking the total number of cases to 1,68,542 and death toll to 864.
Further, the state government has claimed that the recovery rate in Bihar is 91.63 %, which more than the national average, while the positivity rate also remained the lowest in the country. The number of deaths per million people is also less than the national average.
On Sunday, the state has reportedly tested 1,76,511 samples, a record in a day so far. Till now Bihar was testing between one lakh and 1.5 lakh samples every day since earlier this month. Most of these tests were conducted with rapid antigen detection kits. Reports claim that the state has been conducting less than 10% of the total COVID-19 tests using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits.
As of now, Bihar has conducted more than 58 lakh tests.