Mumbai: After consultation with the COVID-19 task force and a number of doctors and experts, the Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has given his nod to reopen pre-primary to higher secondary schools in the state.
The proposal to reopen schools was submitted by the state's primary education department which looks after education from pre-primary to junior colleges. The proposal was put up in this week itself after looking at the declining numbers of COVID patients. However, the decision to reopen schools will depend on the view of local authorities in respective regions.
The state government has asked district collectors and municipal commissioners to review the situation in their areas and take a decision. But principally, the state government has cleared reopening of schools, which is also a result of consistent demand by educationists, activists and many citizen bodies.
The new guidelines issued by the state government to start offline schooling encourage vaccination of teaching and non-teaching staff. Also, vaccination of students from the eligible group is recommended. Schools in state had resumed offline operations from December 15.
Meanwhile, the decision to reopen schools was welcomed by parents, teachers, educationists as well as common citizens.
"Parents, teachers as well as many experts were of the opinion to start schools. Our department had sent a proposal to CM office. It was accepted and now schools can reopen offline from Monday," said primary education minister Varsha Gaikwad.
Maharashtra witnessed a rapid rise in COVID patients, including omicron, since December 25. The highest number of patients was recorded on January 5-10 when over 50,000 daily patients were detected as COVID positive. But as the numbers started going down since January 12, the demand to start offline schooling started growing. On Wednesday, Maharashtra recorded 43,697 patients, which was around 10% more than Tuesday. Also, the state saw 49 deaths on Wednesday.
Several educationists have welcomed the decision to reopen offline schooling. Heramb Kulkarni, one of the many voices in support of reopening offline schools, said the decision was in the interest of large sections of society, mainly the deprived classes.
"Online schooling has multiple issues- from infrastructure to learning processes. That is why we were asking state government to reopen schools. It gives an equal opportunity to everyone to learn, which is right of every student," said Kulkarni.
Shivnath Darade, president of Maharashtra State Teachers Association, also welcomed the decision. "Offline schooling is important for teachers as well as students. We only wish that the teachers who were COVID positive during these times should get paid leave. The state government should ask all the private schools to allow paid leave," said Darade.
As the state government has asked local authorities to take the final decision, municipalities like Pune, Nasik and Aurangabad have started reviewing the situation. "The district collector has been instructed to take stock of the situation and decide before Saturday," said Chhagan Bhujbal, guardian minister of Nasik in context of district. The review meeting for Pune, Kolhapur, Aurangabad and Nagpur is scheduled on Friday and Saturday.