Government prepares for enrolling students from August 18Public health experts say schools shouldn’t be reopened for at least the next two months.
The government has decided to stop using school buildings as quarantine and isolation centres, with a plan to start the annual admission process from next month.
The Cabinet on Wednesday decided that schools that were turned into isolation and quarantine centres would be sanitised by the respective local governments to ensure they are safe and start admitting students from August 18.
Over 5,000 schools, mainly the public, were used as quarantine and isolation centres, targeting people arriving from abroad. Only around 2,000 school premises are being used currently to quarantine people suspected to have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development.
Making public the Cabinet’s decision on Thursday, Minister for Finance Yubraj Khatiwada, who is also the government’s spokesperson, said the process has started to reopen schools from August 18. “The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will come out with a detailed work plan for school resumption,” he told journalists.
Khatiwada says the respective schools will be publishing the results and distributing textbooks while admitting students from next month. Over 200,000 public school teachers will have to reach their schools before the admission process begins, according to the Cabinet decision. The government provides free textbooks for the millions of students studying at public schools.
The Education Ministry is preparing to announce the work plan. Tulashi Thapaliya, director general at the centre that has the authority to manage school education, said the work plan will be made public within a couple of days.
Even as the admission process starts from August 18, the government is still undecided about the date to resume teaching-learning activities on the school premises.
“I don’t think schools across the country can resume from the same day. We are for respective local governments to fix the date after assessing the threat of Covid-19,” he told the Post. Currently, students are being engaged in virtual learning through online, radio and television media.
As the intensity of the threat is different from place to place, the school resumption date would vary accordingly. There are 753 local federal units across the country, having 36,000 schools—29,000 of them run by the government. Health Ministry records show that six districts do not have active Covid-19 cases at present.
Public health experts, however, call the government’s decision immature saying that it would be risky to reopen schools as the threat of the pandemic is not over yet.
Dr GD Thakur, former director general at the department of health, asks the government to revoke its decision. “I would suggest giving up the plan of resuming schools for at least two more months,” he told the Post. “Resuming schools soon means risking the health of our children.”The academic year normally begins in mid-April. Schools and colleges have been closed ever since the government on March 22 enforced a lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Records at the centre show over 7 million students were enrolled at the school level last academic year.