Srinagar: Braving the chill and rain that is lashing the valley, 10 lakh students are expected to attend their schools on Wednesday after about two years of closure in the wake COVID-19 Pandemic.
On February 21, Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory Government ordered for the reopening of schools for all classes from February 28, while ensuring complete adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB).
The order was issued by the J&K Chief Secretary, who is also the Chairman State Executive Committee, Arun Mehta after holding a detailed review of the current COVID-19 situation in J&K to assess the overall situation pertaining to the spread of COVID-19.
Schools were closed in Kashmir for the first time from August 5, 2019, when the Centre ended J&K’s special constitutional position, and subsequently by the consecutive spells of COVID-19, affecting the normal schooling badly. There have been brief periods when schools were reopened for a few classes in the past 28 months in Kashmir.
The valley, officials records maintain, has 11,633 educational institutes, including 810 middle schools, 247 high schools, and 37 higher secondary schools. Students enrolled up to the higher secondary level number 10.03 lakh, comprising 5.29 lakh male students and 4.74 lakh female students.
Principal Secretary School Education Department (SED) Bishwajit Kumar Singh said the schools will reopen for routine schooling on March 02. “The SEC has ordered the reopening of schools after February 28 and March 01 is a holiday. So, the first working day in schools will be March 2,” Singh said, adding that all arrangements in government for their re-opening have already been finalised.
Officials said here that all arrangements have been put in place to restart the session and teachers have been directed to work with dedication for building capacities of students for the betterment of their future.
The majority of the private schools have already notified their schedule to reopen the institutions in a phased manner. The schools have decided to resume routine schooling for higher classes from March 2 while the junior classes will resume offline class work a week later.
“We have asked the school authorities to ensure a smooth transition of students from online mode to the offline mode by creating a favourable environment for the students in the schools,” a senior education department official posted in Civil Secretariat said, adding that the schools have been asked to adopt a fun way of learning for students in schools for the first two weeks instead of rushing for home assignments and unit tests.
Even the Director of School Education in Kashmir (DSEK) has conveyed to the staff to ensure that children are made to celebrate their return to schools by decorating the premises for them with balloons and offering them sweets.
The message of DSEK reads: “Create an air of festivity in our schools. Let us break the ice and pass on a message that this week it will be more play, more fun. We should make small groups of children so that they share the experiences of long pauses, the woes, the happiness, the stress while keeping Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) in mind,” the schools have been asked to organise one to one counseling with students, each child getting around 10 minutes. “Talk to them, listen to their difficulties, and reassure them.”
On the other side, the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) has also stated that the first week of reopening of schools will be celebrated as a week of happiness and sharing of experiences to enable students to start the session in a stress-free environment.
“There should be no assignments or tests during the first two weeks, no mandatory uniform. The students should get a stress-free atmosphere,” President PSAJK said in a message.
“Tomorrow I will wear my uniform for a long time. For about two years I visited my school without a uniform, either to pick up e-assignments or submit assignments to qualify for examinations. It will be after a long, long time that I will sit in the classroom,” said Mustaqeem Nabi, a Burn Hall student.
The parents who thronged to markets in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir said that their kids visiting the schools again in uniform will be a good omen for the education sector.