After having closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early March 2020, schools and Pre-university Colleges opened their doors on January 1st to students of class 10th and II year of Pre-university. Schools were re-opening after a period of almost 10 months. As the pandemic has not yet subsided, both schools and Pre-University colleges took the necessary precautions to ensure that any spread of the virus is effectively contained. As students were making a return to their study environments and campuses in around 10 months, many schools conducted aartis (a Hindu ritual where wicks that are coated with ghee are lit and offered to deities or persons) to welcome them. Some schools brought out their creative side and welcomed students with flower showers and bands playing traditional music.
On Friday, January first, students of class 10th and 2nd year of PUC (Pre-University College) entered campuses after getting their temperatures checked at entry points, wearing masks, and constantly sanitizing their hands. All schools and Pre-University Colleges have been asked to take the necessary precautions so as to ensure that the environment is made safe for study. Across the state, a total of 5.9 lakh students are enrolled in the aforementioned grades and have to now appear for their respective board exams due to which great priority has been placed on them. As Karnataka has been witnessing a drop in the recent COVID positive cases, authorities felt it relatively safe to let students enter campuses albeit in batches. Students of grades 6 through 9 also entered campuses for the Vidyagama Programme. Students have been asked to bring with them a letter of consent signed by their parents and have also been asked to maintain physical distancing at all times.
As Friday was both the first day of class after a 10-month long period and New Year’s Day, not many students attended class. Nevertheless, schools and PU Colleges went out of their way to receive the student body with as much love as they could. C S Puttaraju, JD(S), MLA from the Pandavapura constituency in the district of Mandya, stood in front of the PU college of his district and welcomed each student with a flower garland on their return. While addressing them he shared his hopes of 2021 being the year that re-installes hope and marks a new beginning for all.
On the other hand, K Gopalanath, the Food and Civil Supplies Minister handed out free masks and sanitizer bottles to the Karnataka Public School students in Bangalore. However, not everyone was happy with the re0\-opening of schools during the pandemic. There clearly was opposition as the virus has not yet been eradicated. However, the counter-argument was that online classes were still not normal in rural areas, and therefore, many of those who could not afford it were being forced to give up on their studies and go to work. This would adversely affect the lives of students and their student years would prove to be one of the most important time periods in their lifetimes. Therefore, Education Minister Suresh Kumar expounded that schools should be re-opened while taking all the necessary preventive measures.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also tweeted “Happy New Year to everyone. In the interest of the educational progress of the students, from today class 10 and 12 will start, also Vidyagama will restart for class 6 to 9 students. All the necessary arrangements have been made for the safety of the students. Compulsorily use masks, maintain social distancing, cleanliness and cooperate with the government.”
However, some parents accompanied their children to school as the anxiety regarding the spread of COVID-19 is not something one can easily suppress. Nevertheless, classes have been sanitized before re-opening and every precautionary measure has been taken to reassure the parent and to contain the virus. S. Suresh Kumar, the Educational Minister, made it a point to inspect these schools in person and explained that parent who is anxious needn’t send their wards to school right away as it has not been made compulsory and that they could wait and observe the situation more if they would like. To the parents who did send their children to school, he assured them that all necessary precautionary measures have been taken and will continue to be so. Addressing the elephant in the room, he said the UK Variant of the coronavirus is not more dangerous than the existing one, unlike rumors and popular misconception, and expressed hope for vaccinations to come tackling its spread.
With the onset of the pandemic, many things that were once viewed as absurd have been made normal, a prime example of which is learning from home through online classes instead of being physically present in one’s classroom. Another such thing that the Education Minister is hoping to normalize is the taking of precautionary measures constantly without a fail. In order to ensure the same, he said, the government is thinking of setting up a vigilance team in every district that will go about inspecting schools and PU colleges to ensure that precautionary measures are being taken. He also instilled confidence in anxious parents by reassuring them, saying the state has been well prepared to welcome their wards amidst the pandemic.