Kolkata: Amid a rise in the number of COVID-19, the West Bengal government has decided to reopen schools and colleges of the state from November 16. Since March 16, 2020 all schools and colleges have been closed in the state. However, students under class IX will have to wait further, as only higher classes have been allowed.
While the stress level and anxiety of parents and guardians have increased with this announcement, there is also relief that children can now go back to school.
In majority of the states, educational institutions have already reopened, such as Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
Though the decision to open educational institutions has been welcomed in all quarters, doctors and public health experts have called for strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in schools and colleges.
Chaitali Mondal, who works in an NGO on education and health told NewsClick about her first-hand experience while advocating safe practices in about 4,000 schools in Murshidabad district.
"Though everybody is aware of what should be done, enforcing COVID-19 protocol among the teaching community and school authorities in the state is a lacklustre affair," she said.
A United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Worldvision project is also being carried out in Kolkata, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad and Purulia, where schools are being prepared in the post-COVID scenario. Apart from infrastructure, the project is also tackling issues like sanitisation, ensuring regular washing of hands, wearing proper masks and teaching proper hand wash techniques to schoolchildren.
Partha Roy, whose child is studying in Kolkata's Pathabhavan, pointed out that while schools and colleges were reopening, local suburban train travel was yet to be normalised by the state government. He said the state government should take every safety precaution to ensure that their wards were safe in schools.
The Students Federation of India (SFI) has welcomed the state government's move, as it has in the last few months been demanding the reopening of schools and colleges. SFI state secretary Srijan Bhattacharya, told NewsClick that while the move was welcome, the issue of students dropping out of school should be immediately addressed. He also demanded full vaccination for all college students. Issues like sanitisation of school premises and adhering to COVID-19 protocol and wearing masks should be enforced by school and college authorities, he said, adding that colleges should have enough stock of proper wearable masks to be distributed free to students.