The schools in Kerala are set to open from Monday, November 1, after a gap of 20 months. The state education department will conduct 'Pravesanolsavam' celebrations to welcome the children back to schools in a grand manner, but there still are apprehensions among parents as the COVID-19 cases have not declined. State Minister for General Education V Sivankutty told the media that all schools in the state will be welcoming students with celebrations adhering to COVID-19 protocol. However, possibilities of a large number of students shying away from offline classes are high as the state recorded 7,427 fresh COVID-19 cases and 358 deaths on Saturday. Many parents are apprehensive of sending their children to schools.
Rajesh Nair, a software engineer at Thiruvananthapuram, while speaking to IANS said, "My children are in primary classes and I don't want them to get exposed in offline classes. COVID-19 cases are still high in the state, with fresh cases touching 7,427 on Saturday, so I will not send my two daughters to school."
Minister Sivankutty has also said that there is no need for panic as the government has made all preparations for the reopening of schools. Sivankutty, while speaking to IANS, said, "We have made all preparations for the reopening of schools, and children and parents need not have anxiety about the same."
Primary students and those in Classes 10 and 12 will attend their schools from Monday while those in Classes 8, 9, and 11 will attend classes from November 15.
The state education department has announced the slogan "Thirike Schoolilekua or 'Back to School' as schools reopen across the state after 18 months.
The Minister added that offline teaching will not be in a full-fledged manner at the initial stages and focus would be on fun, play, and recreation to instil confidence and camaraderie among children. The minister also said that the parents and teacher associations have also been taken into confidence to bring in a maximum number of students back to schools.
While the state government is stating that it has done all preparations for the reopening of the schools, there is a possibility of students from tribal areas skipping the classes in large numbers. In Tirunelli panchayat of Wayanad district, 50 per cent of the population comprises tribal people, including the Kurichiya and Paniya tribes.
Poovan Thampan, a farmer from the Kurichiya community from Tirunelii panchayat, while speaking to IANS said, "Children have lost interest in attending classes and they have not been able to attend classes as the Internet connectivity here was poor. This has led to children losing interest and engaging in other vocations like grazing cattle and catching fish, as well as plucking fruits and collecting honey from forests. Unless the tribal department takes active interest with the support of the state education department, there is going to be a drastic fall in the number of students attending classes."
The state education department, however, said that the department is conducting an awareness programme among the tribal community in Wayanad and Idukki districts of the state in association with the tribal department. The state education department also said that teachers, including single school teachers are asked to monitor the drop in students in tribal areas and to pursue the parents to send children back to schools.
A senior officer with the state education department, while speaking to IANS, said, "We will monitor the situation for the first week and assess the number of dropouts and will engage the parents of these children with the support of the tribal department, panchayat, and block offices, as well as local social and political workers to convince parents to send their children back to school. It will not be a major problem and within one month of the reopening of the classes we are expecting more than ninety percent attendance in classes in tribal areas."
The education department has also completed the cleaning of the schools, and disinfection has been taken up with the support of public and stakeholder support.