KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her government is weighing options for reopening schools and colleges on alternate days after the Durga Puja vacation in November.
Educational institutions have been closed in the state since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year.
“However, nothing has been finalised just yet,” Banerjee told reporters following a meeting of the Global Advisory Board (GAB), headed by Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, at the state secretariat.
The economist is in West Bengal to discuss Covid strategies.
Several educationists, heads of academic institutions and doctors hailed Banerjee and her government’s approach towards reopening schools.
Headmaster of state-run higher secondary school Jadavpur Vidyapith, Parimal Bhattacharya, told PTI if schools resume, physical classes can be held on alternate days adhering to Covid protocols.
“Teachers and students will be more than willing I think. Though online classes are taking place in our institution at both secondary and higher secondary levels, students have been reported to be restive and depressed staying indoors,” Bhattacharya said.
Office-bearer of Paschimbanga Sikshak Samity, Naba Kumar Karmakar, said it had recently proposed to the state government if in-campus higher classes can resume by August-end, in phases.
“We think online education cannot be the alternative to campus classes. Many students cannot afford smart phones or laptops, which are necessary for virtual learning. So restarting physical classes is the only alternative,” he said.
Professor Suranjan Das, Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University, said students grow up attending classes inside the campus, participating in interactive sessions and these help them in evolving.
“If classes can resume with necessary safety measures, then that should be welcomed,” he said.
The medical fraternity described the chief minister’s statement as a sign of positive thinking, which can go a long way in easing stress on children.
“We have been trying to protect our children from the pandemic, but at the same time, we also must think about how much their education has been affected since the outbreak of the pandemic,” eminent physician Dr Kunal Sarkar said.
Rajib Ghosh, member of the Guardians Forum of a reputed private school, however, said, “It has to be seen that the schools (especially private ones) don’t shift the entire responsibility concerning Covid safety protocols to the guardians.”
Ghosh, father of a girl who is in Class 5, said the threats of a possible third wave should also be factored in.