J&K Admin Mulls Reopening of Schools

KO File Photo

Srinagar- Vaccination still unapproved for children and fears of the third wave of Covid-19 notwithstanding, the Jammu and Kashmir administration is considering physical attendance for students in lower classes in a staggered manner.

The administration, as per a local news agency, is closely monitoring the spread of the pandemic and a final call over the reopening is expected this month, a local news agency reported. “Over the next two to three weeks final call will be taken on reopening of schools for lower classes in staggered manner,” officials said.

An official told a local news agency that the Directors School Education and Commissioner Secretary School Education will take a call “if parents give positive feedback about the same.”

“Over the last three weeks, there is a slight increase in positive cases of Covid-19 and we are closely monitoring the situation, so that we will be prepared beforehand to tackle the third wave of Covid-19,” he said.

Schools in Kashmir have been shut since July 2019, ahead of the abrogation of JK’s special status and statehood even as activities remained normal in the Jammu division. Educational institutions were briefly reopened before the pandemic forced another region-wide shutdown beginning 2020.

Physical classes were restarted for high and higher secondary students keeping in view the board examinations of 10th and 12th classes this year. “50% attendance has been carried out for both these classes so that studies could be continued along with Covid appropriate behaviour,” the official said.
Stating that all district education officials have submitted data regarding the current Covid scenario in their respective areas, the official said that a decision would be taken according to their reports.

The official said that the non-vaccination of children had delayed the reopening of schools in the region. “Children are unvaccinated so they are vulnerable to Covid-19,” he said. “That’s the main hindrance because if vaccination of children gets approved then administration can take a decision regarding reopening of schools.”

Whenever the positivity rate of Covid in the population decreases, the administration will allow phase wise reopening, the official told a local news agency. “It might be possible to reopen schools in a staggered manner,” the official added. “Commissioner Secretary along with Director of school education can always talk with the parents for their feedback regarding reopening of schools or not.”

In case positivity rates rise, as is feared, in the wake of a third wave of the pandemic, the official said that the administration would again shut down all educational institutions as was the case when the schools were briefly reopened last year.

Reopen Schools Immediately

Earlier, Jammu Kashmir Education Chamber, an amalgam of private schools associations of J&K, in a statement called on the administration to immediately reopen schools across the region.

The JKEC said that the schools in Kashmir have been closed since 2019 and the administration had failed so far in coming out with a roadmap for the reopening of educational institutes.

“Every expert and educationist says that there is no alternative to brick and mortar classrooms and online classes are creating huge problems,” they said. “If the schools are not opened any time soon, the future of our students is at stake.”

Pertinently, private schools have run into controversies with parents accusing them of “exploitation”. Despite closure of campuses, private schools have continued to charge parents for transport and other unused facilities.
Amid the controversy and public demand for regulation and oversight on exorbitant fees charged by private schools for profits, the administration had set up the Fee Fixation & Regulation Committee (FFRC).

The JKEC said the committee was “creating problems” for private school owners. They said that school owners are “fully cooperating” with the committee, which in turn is sluggish in its pace.

Defending its own interests, the JKEC also raised questions over the JK administration, saying that the committee was “a one-sided affair.”

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