Of the more than 17 lakh Class 10 and 12 students in the State, about 8 lakh are enroled in government and aided schools.
“How many government school students from poor families can afford safety face masks as per the Health Department guidelines? How many schools can be monitored every day to find out whether they are following the SOP properly,” asked PB Prince Gajendra Babu, secretary, State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu (SPCSS-TN).
“Basically, schools are being reopened just to prepare the students for board exams,” he said. He said the State government should come out with other details, including class hours and the number of working days besides declaring board exam dates.
S Arumainathan, president of Tamil Nadu Students Parents Welfare Association, said most of the government schools in rural areas do not have proper infrastructure facilities like toilet facilities for students or sanitary staff to clean the toilets. “The vaccines have already arrived. So the government could have waited at least one more month so that students could also be vaccinated before returning to schools,” he said.
Even while welcoming school reopening, Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association president PK Ilamaran also urged the government to distribute free reusable face masks for poor students to ensure safety.
“As students from government and aided schools are already under severe stress due to closure of schools and not having access to online classes, the authorities concerned should immediately announce the reduction in syllabus so that teachers will have enough time to get the students prepared for board exams,” he added.
When asked, a senior School Education Department official said sanitisation and other safety measures, including distribution of thermal scanners and hand sanitisers to State-runs schools, would be over before the classes begin.
Meanwhile, private school managements hailed the government’s decision to reopen schools from January 19. “It was our demand for long to reopen the schools for the benefit of the students,” said DC Elangovan, secretary, Federation of Associations of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu.