Ram Rakshith V and Hiranmayi K
Bengaluru: Several schools and pre-university colleges across Karnataka reopened on January 3 after nine-and-a-half months owing to the pandemic. “Vidyagama”, the continuous learning programme for government schoolchildren, was also relaunched on the same day for students from grades 6 to 9, with classes being conducted on the school premises.
This flagship programme was suspended in October after a few COVID-19 cases were reported among students and teachers.
The State government issued revised guidelines which required the children to be divided into groups of 15 or 20, depending on the number of teachers and classrooms available. They were to be allowed to campuses for half-a-day and attend three classes of 45 minutes each, wearing masks and following other COVID-19 protocols.
On starting of classes, Mr Manjunath, headmaster of Government Kannada Primary School, Kaveri Nagar, said: “Students of Classes 6 and 7 are coming now. We do temperature checks and help each student sanitise at the entrance of the school every day. Even the classrooms and the toilets are cleaned and sanitised daily”. He added that they had made it compulsory for students to get an approval letter from their parents to attend classes.
“We have ensured that the students maintain a six-feet distance while sitting in the classroom”. However, teachers were facing difficulties in preventing students from meeting their classmates in close quarters. The school functions from 10 am to 12:30 pm, and only 18 students have been attending classes since the commencement.
The headmaster added: “Every student is required to get both food and water from home, and no canteen facility is being provided here. We have also cancelled the morning assembly session and the games period as a precautionary measure”.
“Parents are still hesitant to send their children to school. We cannot force them too”, said Mr Manjunath. During lockdowns, they had created a WhatsApp group and sent assignments to students through that. They had also convinced parents to buy mobile phones to help their children. “There are still more than 50 per cent of students without mobile phones, and we are not able to help them," he added.
Ms Veena, a teacher of Government Higher Primary School, RT Nagar, said: “During lockdowns, as a part of Vidyagama, we held classes in temples, huts, and community halls. Around 15 to 20 students used to attend the classes.” She added that they would take a picture of every class and send it to the State Education Department to maintain records. Teachers were also apprehensive about handling classes during that period, as some of them, who were put on COVID-19 duty, had lost their lives.
A blackboard decorated to welcome students.
“On January 1, we welcomed our students with flowers, sweets, and balloons, and the entire school wore a festive look”, added the teacher. They had made all the arrangements, including sanitization and temperature checks. They had painted square boxes six-feet apart on the floor for children to walk on, to maintain social distancing. “Around 40 students come every day, and six of us take classes”, said the teacher.
“We provide books, ration, shoes, and uniform free-of-cost to our children. We just want students to come and study,” the teacher added. Students had to be briefed on all the lessons from the beginning as they had forgotten what was taught to them nine months ago.
Ms Veena added: “It’s going to be difficult once students from classes 1, 2, and 3 start attending school because they are very young and sensitive.”
A teacher explaining various activities planned for children.
Dinesh, a Class 6 student of Government Higher Primary School, RT Nagar, said: “We wear masks and sit in the prayer hall as soon as we enter the school premises. We are being taught Kannada, English, Science, Computer Science, and Mathematics very well from the basics.” However, he added that only 50 per cent of the students had been attending classes regularly since the school reopened.
Despite being on COVID-19 duty, teachers are guiding students through both offline and online modes of teaching. Students and teachers across government schools in Bengaluru appear to have put up a brave front not succumbing to the fear of the pandemic.