On January 1, elementary schools in Assam reopened for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, with only a handful of students in attendance. While students from class 6 and upwards have been attending school since November, a dip in cases led the authorities to announce reopening of lower primary, class (1 to 5) from January 1.
“Considering the importance of continuous education, the government of Assam has decided to start re-opening of lower primary schools (from class 1 to 5 onwards) from January 1. However, online mode of education will continue for students who prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school” stated the standard operating procedure (SOP) from the Education Department, Government of Assam, released on December 28. The SOP added that the classes will function in a staggered manner and that attendance of students must not be “enforced” but be based on “parental consent.”
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At Guwahati’s Rabindra Vidya Niketan Lower Primary School, only seven out of 56 students showed up on Friday. “Following government’s order, we had only classes 4 and 5 in attendance — very few showed up,” said Mitali Mazumdar, the school’s principal. According to the SOP, classes will be held in a staggered manner. While class 4 and 5 will attend school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, classes 1, 2 and 3 will attend every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“They all wore masks and we kept sanitisers handy. While it was smooth today, it may be challenging when more students show up — since these are very young students and it might be difficult to make them understand the importance of social distancing,” said Mazumdar.
In another part of the city, Tarun Ram Phukan Hindi High school also saw low attendance. “It’s the first of January — this is one reason only a few showed up. From Monday, we expect more students to come,” said headmaster Ashok Kumar Choudhury.
The SOP also stated that classes 6 to 12 as well as degree colleges and universities will function in a “normal” manner — subject to safety Covid-19 protocol’s — from January 1. “Mostly senior students attended school today, we are closely monitoring and reviewing the situation,” says B Kalyan Chakravarthy, Principal Secretary, Department of Elementary and Secondary education.
Since schools reopened on September 21, authorities said that no outbreak had been reported. Last month Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the decision to reopen completely was taken considering the state’s low Covid toll. On December 31, Assam reported 72 new cases against 21,6211 tests and a positivity rate of 0.32 per cent.