Low attendance, vaccination dilemma; Offline classes in Barak Valley kicks off to a bumpy start
September 6, 2021, the day right after Teacher’s Day celebrations was the target day for Schools and Colleges in Assam to reopen for the higher group of classes. Most of the institutions were able to keep up with the deadline and successfully resumed offline classes yesterday, albeit with an abysmal attendance. Only degree and final year higher secondary students are allowed to attend classes, they will be able to do so after getting at least one jab of either vaccine, a criterion that many students are unable to fulfil. The Standard Operating Procedure issued by the Government, also stated that the institutions shall conduct vaccination camps for their students, something that the institutions ignored.
The Principal of G.C. College, Silchar, Bibhash Deb informs us that they have made smaller groups of students for each batch and will try to give students as many more classes as possible. However, he says, being able to have class every day won’t be possible for all. He further states, “All of our staff have already vaccinated and we have written to the Joint Director of Health for conducting a vaccination camp for our eligible students. We are verbally cross-checking with the students about their vaccination status and are maintaining strict covid appropriate behaviour in our campus and classes.”
N.C. College of Badarpur, as Barak Bulletin reported earlier, has successfully vaccinated almost all of its students with a few exceptions and are trying to do classes for all students on all working days. They too resumed classes yesterday and Principal Dr. Mortuja Hussain informs, “We are physically asking all students to produce their vaccination certificates before they can enter their respective classrooms as we have ourselves made sure to vaccinate most. We had almost 85% attendance on day one and are hopeful for even stronger numbers in the coming days.”
Schools in Silchar, on the other hand, have very few students who are above 18 and fall under the eligibility of getting vaccinated. Most senior secondary schools restarted classes for Higher Secondary second-year students but are witnessing low attendance. Don Bosco School, Silchar, unlike other senior secondary schools, has no immediate plan to reopen offline classes. Father Surjit Tigga informed that the management will hold a meeting and decide when to restart classes. It is worth mentioning here that the SOP urges institutions to continue providing a quality option for online classes as an alternative to offline lectures.
The Principal of Narshing H.S. School Silchar, Ratan Paul tells, “We are trying to conduct classes for all Science students on all days but for the students of Arts stream, it will be only possible on every alternative day as the number of students enrolled is far higher. I am very hopeful that this is the beginning of normalcy in lives and we are taking extra care so as to keep our campus sanitised at all times.”
The government has also proposed the institutions to conduct morning and evening shifts along with regular day shifts. This, the government feels, will help institutions to accommodate the most number of students despite following the social distancing norms. Purnadeep Chanda, Principal Ramanuj Gupta Junior College says the management is yet to discuss the proposal of three shifts. RGJC will begin offline classes from Friday with 30 students in each class.
Students are heading back to their classrooms and the state is unlocking. For the most part of 2020 and 2021, the students were compelled to study from home. This, for them, is the new normal. While “School Chale Hum” is indeed a great moment, it won’t be the same as it used to be before the coronavirus infections had hit the country and the world. Sanitiser bottle is now as important as a water bottle and vaccination certificates outweigh the importance of notebooks. Masks are mandatory and high-fives will be few and far as maintaining distance is a compulsion. How students get used to the new normal is something that only time will tell.