School reopening: Parents divided on the issue

Some say online classes are inadequate while others focus on the health risk involved

The consultation meetings held with parents on the decision to reopen schools for Class 10 and Class 12 students seems to have evoked mixed reactions.

Some parents claimed that their wards were unable to learn well through online classes and teachers of government schools noted that some students were forced to take up jobs to make ends meet.

The School Education Department had asked the schools to organise meetings with parents of students studying in Class 10 and 12 and submit the feedback by January 8. Schools in Tiruchi have been calling parents in batches to get the feedback. With the board examinations fast approaching, schools have been insisting on meeting the students, and conducting practical examinations.

At the Syed Murthuza Higher Secondary School in Palakkarai, parents requested the teachers to conduct classes on a shift-basis prior to the board examinations. “With only four months to go, we are unsure of the future of our children. Many of our wards do not have access to Android phones to attend online classes, and in some households that do, we do not know if the child is able to learn through it,” said Satheeshwaran, a parent.

Many families are also unable to afford the cost of internet access on the phone, they said. Mary Grace, headmistress, said that she was unable to trace many students after a long break as they may have been forced to go to work during the lockdown. “My teachers and I will have to work harder to bring them back to school,” she said.

In private schools, the parents were concerned about the health risks involved. At Campion Anglo – Indian Higher Secondary School, the response was 50-50, said Correspondent Rev. Bro. Irudayam. “Those who did not want their wards to attend school expressed concerns over the children getting infected by the novel coronavirus, and putting elders in the family at risk. While the school will be able to ensure the students’ safety on the premises, protection during travel such as autorickshaws, buses, etc., may be difficult,” he said.

Some parents, like those at St. John’s Vestry Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School said that immuno-compromised children and those with pre-existing illnesses such as asthma would be at risk. “These concerns are valid. We must put these forward to the department too,” said Simon Sugumar, Principal. However, the number of attendees at the meeting was low, he said and added that only 45% of parents attended the meetings.

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