As schools in Delhi reopen after a gap of over a year since Covid-19 hit home, parents, teachers and students are struggling with different sets of problems with the hope to either reclaim their pre-Covid routine and efficiency or get used to the new normal that may stay longer than anticipated.
Anurag (name changed) a student of Class V in a private school in East Delhi, who was a lively and meritorious student before Covid, now finds it difficult to form a single sentence, has developed stage fright and stumbles a lot while reading even medium-length sentences, says his class teacher who adds that the 10-year-old in not the only case in her class, “but every student seems to be lacking in one aspect or the other after they have joined back school physically.”
“The aptitude of the students, especially those of the primary class students, has been affected sorely due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. In a way they have missed out on the social skills as they were accustomed to doing things in a certain manner before Covid-19. First day was really as if they were lost, followed by hesitancy and fear as to how things will go on from here,” Principal of Springdales School Rajni Kumar told IANS.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in October announced that schools in the capital would reopen for all classes from November 1, even though teaching and learning would continue in a hybrid (both offline and online) mode. However, many private schools due to the festivities decided to open after Diwali or from November 15.
“It has been a while since children have stepped outside of home or been anywhere without a family member. Classes three days a week with 50 per cent attendance is a good idea. This pandemic has affected the mental and emotional health of all of us and children after being confined to homes have lost touch with the outside world. As a parent I am anxious to send my child to school and we have prepared them accordingly and will start sending them to school from next week onwards,” Seema, parent of a 12-year-old student of Sardar Patel School and member of the parents’ association said.
“Children have not just missed social, reading and writing skills but they have also forgotten what they had studied up until now. During online classes, teachers used to give quite a lot of homework or some kind of art and craft and activities that could not be done without parents’ involvement. All this proved to be more challenging for working parents and those with more than one kid,” she added citing her own example. “We are hopeful that with physical classes being restarted, children will learn and grow constructively.”
“Even in the case of senior students, the teachers faced a similar problem. However, the children were happy to join the classes. Springdales introduced a bunch of extra-curricular activities, restarted its morning activities and assemblies with strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocols. It took them about a week to get back to routine. It will take some time for all of us to get used to this new normal,” the Springdales Principal said.
Classes for students of Class IX to XII in the national capital reopened from September 1 onwards.
Beena Gusain, who has been teaching for over a decade in an East Delhi school, shared the woes faced by teachers. “It began with the technological aspect of things and now that we are back in the physical form, we are cautious while checking notebooks and conducting assemblies. Children are not allowed to move out of their seats, obviously cannot share lunch and water like earlier. So there are a lot of restrictions but we are trying our best to do our job to the best of our abilities.”
In the meantime, Pre-schools or play schools in the capital are also gearing up to open from November 15 onwards.
Abhishek Rathor, COO at Sanfort Group of Schools, said, “Instead of 3-4 hours straight, we are asking parents to send their kids for 1.5-2 hours that too in a phased manner. There will be many students who will be visiting the school for the first time after their admission.”
Rathor, who is looking forward to the reopening of schools, told IANS, “During the pandemic, we have seen children and parents not taking the online classes or the teachers seriously. Students were scoring above 80 per cent in their online tests, when the same tests were carried out offline, the average score was 60-75 per cent. Other than that, the private schools also had to face competition from online tutoring platforms like Byju’s and Vedantu. Parents were not willing to pay fees as they saw a much more viable option in these platforms with a monthly subscription of Rs 500-Rs 1,000.”