Maharashtra task force lists ways to keep schoolkids safe | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra task force lists ways to keep schoolkids safe

ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai
Aug 19, 2021 12:57 AM IST

The state had planned to re-open physical classes for students from Class 5 to 8 in rural areas and Class 8 to 12 in urban areas. However, the decision was deferred on Monday.

Distanced seating, a hybrid model of online and offline sessions to limit the number of students in class, allowing outdoor sports with limited or no contact, sensitisation of teachers and parents are some of the guidelines drafted by the nine-member paediatric task force for safe schooling amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The draft was submitted to the Maharashtra government last week.

Most schools have remained closed since March 2020, leaving students dabbling with online education and the lack of social contacts. (HT FILE)
Most schools have remained closed since March 2020, leaving students dabbling with online education and the lack of social contacts. (HT FILE)

The state had planned to re-open physical classes for students from Class 5 to 8 in rural areas and Class 8 to 12 in urban areas. However, the decision was deferred on Monday.

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A state official said that schools have to prep for re-opening by ensuring that all teachers and staff were vaccinated and they had Covid-specific protocols in place. “The schools have to first comply with the guidelines made by the task force before they are allowed to re-open,” said the official.

The pandemic has disrupted education for nearly 17 months now. Most schools have remained closed since March 2020, leaving students dabbling with online education and the lack of social contacts. The task force guidelines have taken a holistic approach by recommending protocols for distancing, sanitising, assessing the psychosocial impact on children and positioning the teachers and parents as key players to ensure that any possible Covid-19 outbreaks are quickly contained.

“Earlier, if children had a minor cough or cold, parents would still send them to school, but that cannot happen anymore,” said Dr Vijay Yewale, member of the paediatric task force.

“The schools will have to reduce the number of students per batch, stagger sessions, and more importantly hold meetings with parents to sensitise them. Temperature checks will have to be done at entry points and any activities that require close contact will have to be avoided,” he said.

But how does one get children to stay at a distance from their friends in school? “It will be tricky, but a crucial part of safe schooling will also involve sensitising children,” said Dr Samir Dalwai, a developmental and behavioural paediatrician and member of the task force. “Students will have to be made aware about things to do when they get home from school. For example, having a bath before mingling with family members, keeping the used uniform aside for washing etc,” he said.

Schools are recommended to have a 50/50 online-offline model. Experts said that the teacher-student relationship has to be more evolved in every school and teachers will have to act as Covid-19 warriors.

“Teachers will have to establish individualised contact with each student. Schools on the other hand will need robust systems in place. For instance, if someone in class tests positive or is suspected for Covid-19, the school should immediately shift the child and his classmates to online classes, and get the other half of the class to attend physically,” said Dalwai.

Experts say it will be hard for children to suddenly start schooling after such a long gap, and teachers should constantly counsel, and watch out for signs like irritability, anger, lack of interest, among other things.

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