The state government’s decision to reopen schools for classes 9 to 12 in Maharashtra got poor response on the first day (Monday) as a large number of students gave schools a miss due to the fear around the pandemic.

Most schools in Chandrapur, Solapur, Satara, Beed and several other parts of the state saw very poor attendance on the first day, said principals and teachers. Poor planning on part of the government, confusion about guidelines and most importantly- the fear among parents about the pandemic were cited as some of the key reasons for the poor turnout on the first day.

“We had planned the reopening well in advance but students did not turn up today.Our teachers have undergone RT-PCR tests and the school premise has been sanitized. While several parents have also given their consent to send their children, in reality, students did not turn up on the first day,” said Balu Bhoyar, principal, Karamveer Vidyalaya in Chandrapur.

In many parts of the state, the government’s decision of making RT-PCR tests compulsory meant huge queues at testing centres which, in several rural areas, have a limited testing capacity. Many such schools were still awaiting their turn for testing as the local administration had given them dedicated slots to do so.

“We have been given the testing slot for November 25. Until teachers get tested, we don’t think that students will turn up. The government should have planned this well,” said the principal of a school in Beed.

Many schools said that even in the most interior parts of Maharashtra, where internet connectivity was poor and offline classes are needed, parents are still afraid to send their children to school.

“Parents really want to send their children to school but they are worried because cases of Covid-19 are still coming in the village. We cannot force them to send their children in such a situation because the risk is huge,” said Mahesh Kumar Shinde, incharge principal of ZP school in Takalsing, Beed.

In Karad, Satara, several parents choose not to send their children to school on the first day. Arjun Koli, principal of the school run by the Karad Municipal Corporation and a member of the state government’s think tank said the turnout was poor in most schools.

“Parents are worried that by signing the consent form and sending their children, they will be responsible if something unfortunate happens in such a situation. There is also some ambiguity about how to teach even in cases where students come as the education department is yet to set an academic calendar for the coming days,” he added.

In Solapur, after several teachers tested positive for Covid-19, many parents chose not to send their children to school. “Parents are obviously worried after hearing about these reports. They feel that sending children to school now is a big risk,” said Rajkiran Chavan, a teacher from an aided school in Solapur.

Officials from the education department did not respond to calls and messages. Queries sent to state education minister Varsha Gaikwad were also unanswered.

Schools across 22 districts in the state were allowed to reopen from Monday. Those in cities like Mumbai and Pune are still not permitted to open.

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