Valley’s educational institutions in a fix over Covid-19 advisorySchool operators say the rule advising against holding gatherings will be impossible to implement while conducting in-person classes.
Educational institutions in Kathmandu Valley are in a fix after the government issued a circular advising the public to avoid crowds and strictly observe health and safety protocols for Covid-19.
Schools and colleges across the country have already started in-person classes permission to reopen in the second week of January.
But now there has been a surge in the number of infections in neighbouring India, forcing the authorities there to issue lockdown orders in some of the towns. Cases are also rising in Nepal, causing an alarm.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology issued a notice asking all educational institutions to follow the health and safety protocols like the use of wearing masks and sanitiser to contain the coronavirus spread. It also asked schools and colleges not to organise gatherings or functions.
Schools and colleges do not know what to make of the ministry’s statement. It is impossible to implement the “no gathering” rule while conducting in-person classes, according to teachers.
“Even following the health and safety protocols could get difficult, particularly for primary level students,” said Shiva Hari Adhikari, principal of Sanskrit School, which conducts its classes at Durbar High School.
The school cancelled its picnic programme planned for Friday, but the teachers are not sure how they will go about running the regular classes while also making sure that there is no infection outbreak.
Public health experts have been saying that educational institutions are at high risk of virus transmission.
School operators in the Valley say they are more confused about the present situation than they were earlier when the pandemic had just started.
“We have less than three months to conduct Secondary Education Examination (SEE), and the classes have not been going on smoothly,” said Ganesh Chand, principal of Gandhi Adarsha Higher Secondary School at Kadaghari.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, the government had decided to cancel last year’s SEE and grant marks for the tenth grade finals based on internal evaluation of students conducted by their schools.
Gandhi Adarsha Higher Secondary School school, which has 1,350 students, closed for nine months before resuming the in-person classes in January.
“If the infection numbers increase again then we will be forced to shut down again. We cannot rely on online classes because most of the students don’t have the resources to access them,” Chand said. “We had run online classes for 300 students during the lockdown and hardly 80 students had attended them.”
Some private schools in the Valley, meanwhile, are already considering conducting online classes if the infection numbers continue to rise.
“We have been following the prescribed health and safety protocols at our school, but if the situation becomes severe, we could go back to running online classes,” said Niraj Thapa, office in charge of St Xavier’s School, Jawalakhel.
The school has yet to resume the in person classes for its primary level students. Thapa said they were planning to start the classes from next week, but with the latest development, they have been forced to reconsider their plan.
The school has 2,200 students and it has been running classes in morning and day shifts in an effort to reduce the infection risk.
When the Post contacted some local bodies and inquired about their plans for running the educational institutions safely, most of them said they had none.
They said they have circulated the Education Ministry’s notice to schools and colleges.
“We have sent notice to all 640 private and 92 community schools to strictly follow health protocols in their school,” said Ram Thapa, chief of the Education Department of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Public health experts say the local governments should play a proactive role in monitoring schools and colleges.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital said the local authorities that gave permission to reopen the educational institutions should make sure that every school is following the health and safety protocols for Covid-19.
“School operators should also be mindful about keeping the children safe. They should make the necessary arrangements at schools considering what is now the ‘new normal’,” said Pun.