School students in West Bengal who returned to the campus after a 20-month break in November are back behind the screen amid a surge in COVID cases across the country.
Achal Sarkar, a student of Class XI at St. Xavier’s Institution, Panihati, had been looking forward to school reopening after the winter break. But, on January 2, the West Bengal government decided to shut down educational institutions in the state.
The announcement came a day before the vaccination drive for 15-18-year-olds kicked off across the country.
The vaccination drive had sparked hope among students, parents and teachers hopeful that schools and colleges would gradually begin to function normally. But Omicron came as a spoiler.
Mousumi Roy, mother of Hemantika Roy, a Class II student at St. Teresa Secondary School, feels physical classes are important for younger kids. “It is tough for them to focus in an online class. My child misses her friends, classroom and teachers. She keeps asking when she will be able to go to school,” she said.
Achal has decided to take the fresh decision in her stride. “Just as we were getting our life back, we are stuck again. We enjoyed it while it lasted,” she said.
Students, parents and school heads, however, agreed that the closure decision was for everyone’s best. “Safety of the students comes first, specially because they are yet to be vaccinated. Academic activities planned for the students, primarily for those in the final year of school, will have to be reworked. We just hope that students can come back to school soon,” said Ravi Victor, principal, St. Vincent’s High and Technical School.
Educationists expressed concern about the mental health of students and the loss of learning.
(L-R) Runa Chatterjee, Debjita Mazumdar and Ravi Victor. source
“Closure of schools is going to affect teaching-learning, the physical and mental wellbeing of students. But for the greater good and safety of the entire community in this present pandemic crisis, the authorities have taken a prudent decision,” said Runa Chatterjee, headmistress, The Heritage School.
Post-behavioural counsellor Debjita Mazumdar said it was important for teachers and parents to work towards the mental wellbeing of children. “Most students are suffering from boredom because of lack of stimulation. Aggression is increasing and attention span is dipping,” she said,
Mazumdar, a consultant at Orchids International School, New Town, advised students to spend time on hobbies, engage in physical activity and follow a daily routine.”
“Teachers must initiate interaction with students during online classes. They should check on their students and ask about their wellbeing. Students should not feel ignored. Parents must also engage in active interaction with their children. They must join children in activities they enjoy such as gardening, cooking, playing games, art & craft.”