The new SOP published by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority directed all education institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, to continue to provide quality virtual options and said there would be no in-person classes. Online education amid a lingering second wave has posed a big hurdle for students from underprivileged backgrounds as they are not able to afford the necessary infrastructure.
The ICMR DG, Dr Balram Bhargava, recently gave his nod to the reopening of primary schools, saying children can handle the infection better, but the state health department does not want to take any risk. “Unless the positivity rate comes down to below two per cent in all the districts, we cannot think of opening any category of school. There are districts in Assam which still have positivity rates of three to four per cent,” a source in the state education department said, adding that as long as round-the-clock curfew continues, the chance of opening schools is very slim.
The health department is yet to be convinced with the ICMR chief’s views even as it continues to improve the infrastructure of pediatric ICUs in the state in fear of a third wave. “The health department was about to give its opinion in the first week of August when discussions were going on regarding revised dates for state board exams. But ultimately the exams were cancelled. We still hope that there could be a nod for the reopening of schools and other education institutions in August,” a senior health department official told TOI on Tuesday.
He added that the situation is normal is many districts, though it would be a bit risky to open schools in districts like Lakhimpur and Golaghat, which are still under curfew.
The positivity rate of the state in the last seven days (from July 20 to July 26) has been 1.24%. Though most of the districts are maintaining below two per cent positivity, in the hill districts of Dima Hasao and West Karbi Anglong, it’s still 5.27% and 2.13% respectively. In five other districts, the positivity rate is hovering between 1.50 and 1.99%. These are Dhemaji (1.62%), Golaghat (1.94%), Kamrup (1.79%), Karbi Anglong (1.50%) and Nalbari (1.73%). During the seven days, 10,939 cases were positive.
The Assam State Primary Teachers’ Association (ASPTA) general secretary, Ratul Chandra Goswami, said that if feasible, the Assam government should start opening primary schools in consultation with the ICMR and the Centre. He said at least in the districts, which have significantly recovered from Covid, offline classes may start, following Covid-appropriate behaviour.
“Hardly 10 to 20% of primary students could be covered through online education in Assam’s government-run schools. A huge chunk of these students are first generation learners and most of the Class 1 and Class 2 students could not join online classes only because their guardians do not have access to the online mode of studies. We would welcome a move to open at least upper classes of the primary section,” said Goswami.