THE FIRST day of the reopening of schools in Mumbai drew a mixed response with 44% student attendance, according to data compiled by the education department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Coproration (BMC).
While all civic and government-run schools have reopened for children, some city schools still need more days to prepare.
Of a total of 4,043 schools in the city, 3,850 reopened on Monday. There are a total of 16,35,370 students in these schools in grades 1 to 12.
Of these, only 7,20,092 took offline courses on Monday. The data was collated by the BMC Department of Education and the Office of the Deputy Director of Education (DyDE) where the former is the nodal body for primary education and the latter for secondary and secondary education superior.
While the response on day one was less than 50%, schools and teachers are hoping the numbers will gradually increase as offline learning continues. They feel that parents are still taking stock of the situation before sending their children to school. “We think more students will start coming after Wednesday because some people have also moved out of town,” said Rajendra Pradhan, chairman of the DS Lycee board in Sion.
Jaywant Kulkarni, head teacher at a school in Kurla, said: “The reopening of schools has broken the complacent approach that some students had developed in online lessons. Some who had begun to think there would be no exams will now take the studies seriously. Now that schools have started, they know exams will be offline. It has also been a relief for students taking board exams this year.
Some private schools will take a few more days to reopen for offline classes. They also take weather conditions into account. Prachi Ranadive, Principal of Shishuvan School, said, “Due to a drop in mercury, there are many cases of colds and coughs, so we are moving forward with caution.”
In the midst of it all, nothing matched the level of excitement of pre-primary schools. “My daughter is in Junior KG. Ever since her school admission was finalized, it’s been an online affair. The excitement was great today as she was finally able to go to school,” said Moneshi Shah, whose daughter attends Oberoi International School. Adding how the school has taken the utmost care of all safety arrangements; Moneshi said: “Parents have been waiting for this day because young children have suffered a great loss in their growing years. All the children were delighted to finally be able to see school.
When pre-primary sections of schools opened for the first time since the start of the pandemic, they were careful in planning. The goal was to help children learn about offline school. In many kindergartens it was a day of fun activities like drawing, origami and singing. The Early Childhood Association and the Association for Primary Education and Research (ECA-APER) have prepared a set of guidelines for schools and parents, teachers to ensure a smooth return of children, especially their mental well-being.
As well as asking schools and parents to maintain Covid-appropriate behavior, the guidelines also ask teachers to be patient in class as children are likely to become anxious in class. The association’s president, Swati Popat, said: “Children were invited to draw on the first day of school. We observed that none of their drawings showed the Covid. For most of them it was about meeting friends and playing with them, seeing the school building.
The school initially resumed offline classes in Maharashtra from December 15. Prior to this, in Mumbai, only grades 8-12 were allowed to hold offline sessions. Most schools then took the Christmas holidays from December 23 to January 2. When they resumed on January 3, BMC issued a notification asking them to return to online operation amid rising Covid cases in the city. According to this BMC order, schools in Mumbai were to remain closed to operate offline until January 31.
However, with the number of Covid cases decreasing in some parts of the state, on January 20 the government approved the reopening of schools with permission from the local administration.