Chennai

Prolonged closure of schools makes parents campaign for reopening

It has been over two years since several students in primary classes and kindergarten attended in-person classes.

While the Tamil Nadu Government allowed the resumption of in-person classes for primary and middle schools from November last year, this was suspended in two months, owing to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

A few weeks ago, Divya. V noticed her daughter trying to speak to another child during their virtual class, and was tapping on the laptop screen to get her attention. “While schools are doing their best to keep children engaged, she definitely misses being in a classroom with her peers,” said the parent.

Parents of younger children in particular, have had to grapple with getting their children accustomed to online classes, handling their change in behavior, stemming from the lack of socialising with peers, and the lack of physical activity.

Parents like S. Sangeeta, who has a daughter in middle school, asks how long could children be made to sit through online classes when even adults get restless during virtual meetings. “Children themselves are eager to go back to in-person classes. The importance and motivation given to learning has definitely reduced. Things like having a daily routine has taken a hit,” she said.

Back to school campaign

The prolonged closure of schools has brought together a group of parents from the city, who have formed PACES - Parents Association for Child Education and Safety, which is working on a campaign to send kids back to school by collecting responses from parents. Having received over 1,500 responses so far, the association says nearly 93% of parents of children across age groups have said they wished to send the kids back to school, with safety protocol in place.

“My five-year-old son has never been to a school campus and has only seen teachers or other students through a computer screen. Earlier, they used to attend toddler groups on a regular basis and there is a stark difference in their behaviour and attitude from back then to now,” said a parent from Chennai, who is leading this campaign

Another parent member of the association, who has two children, says she is concerned about the psychological impact. ”By reaching out to other parents and preparing this representation, it is our honest appeal to reopen schools with strict protocol in place, and with smaller batches of students or even a hybrid model, where they are not completely cut-off from in-person classes so that these children can have a normal childhood,” she said.

The members acknowledge that while they are able to carry on with virtual classes or hire tutors for extra classes to keep the children occupied from home, several responses they received indicate parents not being able to afford multiple devices and finding it hard to manage children with no external support in households, where both parents work.

‘Adversely affected’

“Lack of regular schools has definitely affected my kids adversely. They’ve become withdrawn and unmotivated,” one response reads. Another response raises concerns about the effects of long-term online classes, including mental strain, eye problems and lack of physical movement. Members of PACES are planning to collate the responses received from the parents and submit it to the Greater Chennai Corporation as a first step.

The Tamil Nadu School Education department has insisted that all teachers in schools be vaccinated and earlier this month, had also rolled out the vaccination programme for students aged above 15.

“Schools shouldn’t be immediately shut as a knee-jerk response, but can have a long-term plan in place to ensure learning continues,” said S. Arumainathan, president, Tamil Nadu Students Parents Welfare Association. He recommended that schools begin functioning under strict protocol and reopen in phases for senior and middle school at the outset.


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 3:49:39 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/prolonged-closure-of-schools-makes-parents-campaign-for-reopening/article38318529.ece