With the demand to reopen schools gaining momentum from several sections of the society, state education minister Bratya Basu today assured that the state government is in favour of reopening the educational institutes and chief minister Mamata Banerjee will take the final call.
“The state government is in favour of reopening the schools. But the government will take a decision after considering all the aspects. We have to ensure that no such situation arises such that we are compelled to shut down our institutes after reopening those. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is monitoring this issue. She will inform as to when the schools will be reopened. We want the institutes to reopen in phases,” said Mr Basu while launching the open-air “Paray Shikshalay” programme.
Schools were shut for the first time in March 2020 due to the pandemic and then reopened in February 2021 for classes 9 to 12. The institutes were again closed later due to the West Bengal Assembly elections and the second wave of Covid in summer of 2021. Schools for classes 9 to 12 resumed in November 2021 and were shut again on 3 January due to the latest surge in Covid cases.
A host of restrictions were imposed along with closure of schools, colleges and universities. Though many relaxations were offered in subsequent orders, educational institutes remained closed. Thus, teachers, students and parents are demanding that schools should now be reopened. Many doctors have said that students are suffering from depression after remaining enclosed for 22 months.
Even Opposition parties have joined in the demand for reopening schools questioning as to when bars, restaurants, parlours and fairs are being allowed why are the educational institutes not being opened. During the day, SFI launched a protest against educational institutes remaining closed at Karunamoyee in Salt Lake. To address the problems faced by students who have remained totally cut off from schools for so long, the Paray Shikshalay programme will start across the state from 7 February.
Coined by Miss Banerjee herself, the Paray Shikshalay is a community-based learning system for primary students. Over 60 lakh students studying in pre-primary to class 4 of the age group 5 to 9 years will be benefited from this initiative. It will bring 50,159 primary schools and over 15,000 shishu shiksha kendras under its ambit.
“The Paray Shikshalay is a mockery because even though both the teachers and students want schools to be reopened, the government is not doing so and instead opting for other avenues. If our demand for reopening schools is not met then we will continue with our pre-decided plan to launch a protest rally from 27 January,” said Prof Tarun Kanti Naskar, secretary, All Bengal Save Education Committee.
A public interest litigation was filed in the Calcutta high court last week seeking reopening of schools and colleges. The government is considering reopening higher secondary schools, colleges, and universities as the Covid-19 cases have dropped and the process is on to vaccinate students aged 15 to 18 years.