Primary school teachers in state agree with ICMR chief’s recommendation of reopening primary schools, seek to discuss issue with education minister
The West Bengal government has made it clear that it has no plans to reopen schools at any level in the near future, with the threat of a third COVID-19 wave looming large.
An official from the state education department confirmed this, in response to a statement by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director-general Balram Bhargava on July 20, where he had recommended the reopening of primary schools in every state as he believed children can handle viral infection better.
The official categorically stated that whenever school campuses reopen, students of higher classes will be the first to start offline classes and not those at the primary level. However, the final decision will be taken by the top level of the government, the official added.
The ICMR recommendation came with the rider that all staff and teachers must be vaccinated. “Children can handle viral infection better, they have less number of receptors. So, once the decision is taken and all the staff are vaccinated, it would be good to open primary schools first,” Bhargava had said.
Even two months ago, state health experts had warned of the possibility of a third wave of COVID-19, which may affect children more. Going by that, the school education department “is in no undue haste” to open primary, secondary and higher secondary schools now or in the immediate future, the official added.
However, All Bengal Primary Teachers Association (ABPTA) vice-president Samar Chakraborty begged to differ. “Schools should open; not only ICMR, even UNICEF and UNESCO have the same view. Most schools have classes 1 to 4 as the primary section. Out of these four years, two academic years for primary students already got wasted. That’s enough for them to lose interest in going to school,” he said.
The association has sought an appointment with the education minister to discuss the issue. “If markets are open, bars and restaurants are operational, then what is the problem with students going to school? Just like government offices, students and teachers can come on a rotation basis with 59% attendance, while maintaining full COVID-19 safety protocol,” Chakraborty added.
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