Schools reopen in Bengaluru: 60% attendance recorded as parents still wary of virus

A lack of resources to conduct both virtual and physical classes has led to many schools in Bengaluru not starting physical classes just yet.
Bengaluru schools scanning students for temperature
Bengaluru schools scanning students for temperature
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Schools in Bengaluru saw a lukewarm response to the reopening of physical classes for students in Classes 1-5, as in many places in Bengaluru, only some schools saw students coming to attend physical classes. In Bengaluru, privately-run schools that saw around 60% attendance on the first day were those attended by students who hail from middle and low-income backgrounds. As schools opened for the first time for Class 1-5 students since March 2020, TNM spoke to parents, school authorities and association heads in Bengaluru and found that in schools that catered to students from better financial backgrounds, parents preferred that their wards continue with online classes for the time being.

Speaking to TNM, Leelavathi, the Headmistress of the Blossoms School, a private school in Bengaluru, said that the response to the reopening of physical classes for primary students was very good. “The children were very eager to come to school. The strength was good. Around 60% of students attended the classes on the first day. We expect the strength to further increase,” she said.

Shashikumar, the General Secretary of the Association of Management of Primary and Secondary Schools of Karnataka (KAMS) said that they had seen a positive response from students, even though full strength is not attending physical classes.

“Because the schools are reopening after such a long time, we are not seeing full strength. But, there is very enthusiastic participation from the students and several schools have reopened. Some schools have not opened because of their own personal interests. But otherwise, the response has been good,” said Shashikumar.

However, most schools attended by students from higher-income backgrounds reported that they received a lukewarm response from parents to the resumption of physical classes. Mansoor Ali Khan, secretary of the Managements of Independent CBSE Schools Association - Karnataka (MICSA-K), said that the response has not been very enthusiastic and parents were sceptical about sending their kids to school as there was no COVID-19 vaccine for kids yet. Therefore, due to lack of resources, schools have not switched to physical classes as yet. As per the Karnataka government’s instructions, the schools had to conduct both online and offline classes, which Mansoor said would be difficult, as the schools would require additional staff.

“We will need double the number of employees to run both online and offline classes. It will only work out when we get back to offline classes completely. The government needs to take a call and finalize with the parents about this issue. Both forms of education together are not manageable,” he said.

He also stated that around 90% of schools belonging to his association had decided not to open classes due to the lack of resources.

B Gayithri Devi, the principal of Little Flower Public School in Bengaluru, said that they have decided to reopen their school for Classes 1 to 5 after Deepavali only. She further revealed that half of the parents were not willing to send their kids to school.

“We had sent out a form to parents for their opinion about reopening of schools for classes one to five and most responded that they wanted the festival of Deepavali to be over before sending their kids to school. We have over 1,300 kids in this group, and we received over 900 responses. 50% of parents want to send their kids to school and the other 50% don't. This probably is due to fear of COVID-19 and they might still be waiting for vaccines to be rolled out for kids,” she said.

Earlier, when physical lessons for Classes 9 to 12 had resumed on August 6, and subsequently schools for Classes 6 to 8 opened a month later from September 6, a similar trend was seen, where schools catering to students from low to medium income backgrounds saw a higher attendance compared to schools catering to students from higher-income backgrounds. Students coming from stronger financial backgrounds generally have better access to fast internet allowing them to learn online. However, without such good access to good internet, as a result of a weaker socio-economic background, many students have struggled to receive the complete benefit of online classes.

Several parents expressed worries about sending their kids to school citing the fear of COVID-19 and furthermore, expressed concerns about the COVID-19 protocols in the schools and want their kids to be vaccinated before they attend school.

Vasantha, whose daughter studies in Class 4 in Narayana E Techno school in Nandini Layout said, “Vaccination is an issue. I will only be comfortable sending my child to school after vaccines are rolled out for them too. In addition to this, there is no guarantee that the school follows proper COVID-19 protocols. Like they ask us to submit our vaccine certificates and consent forms, they have not revealed a single thing like the vaccination certificates of the teachers, or CCTV proof that they are following proper COVID-19 protocols. From other parents of the kids in middle school, we have heard that the classes are being combined and kids are being made to sit without ensuring appropriate physical distance. We have also heard that teachers don't wear masks, saying that their voices cannot be heard. When we go and ask, the school denies all these. We have no trust in the school.”

Bengaluru parent Sateesh, whose daughter studies in Widia Poorna Prajna School, also expressed concerns about the school’s transparency. Sateesh’s daughter studies in Class 7 and has been attending virtual classes despite the reopening of offline classes. Sateesh alleged that when physical classes had resumed for 6 to 8, five people, including teachers, had tested positive for COVID-19 and the school kept running the school without properly informing the parents.

“When the teachers tested positive, they just closed the headmistress’s cabin and didn't inform anyone. They didn't even shut the school when the cases were detected and the kids kept on coming. If the schools are transparent and proactively follow guidelines when there is a risk, I don't have a problem,” he said.

IANS reports that on Monday, October 25, as many as 44,615 primary schools run by the Karnataka government and 19,645 unaided and aided private schools reopened across the state for Classes 1 to 5 after 19 months as per government orders.

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