Many private schools that resumed physical classes on Monday recorded almost full attendance, something that teachers said showed how keen students were to attend in-person classes.
Teachers also spoke about the need to get children back into the school-going habit, which they had been forced out of because of the Covid pandemic.
Once the students settle back in school, the teachers can start work on improving their social skills and plugging the learning gaps.
Only then can the children relearn the skills of adjustment and team work, much of which has been affected because of online classes that continued for two years since the outbreak of Covid, teachers said.
Senior students at St James’ School on Monday discussed with teachers about Founders’ Day celebrations scheduled for next month. The day will be celebrated on the campus after almost two-and-a-half years.
Senior students at South City International School were busy doing up the school notice board.
Students in at least two schools reached 30 to 40 minutes in advance, teachers said.
A traffic cop at the intersection of Moira Street and Rawdon Street said the “familiar school-time hum” was back. One could hear the children while walking past one of the schools dotting that part of south Kolkata.
“The attendance on Monday was almost 95 per cent, a marked improvement from what we recorded during online classes last week. The attendance then was about 60 per cent,” said Terence Ireland, principal of St James’ School.
The excitement to get back was as much for children as for parents.
Tejas Doshi was happy to drop his daughter at school because that meant she would be away from gadgets.
“Hopefully, there will be some real play and sports, instead of virtual activities that have been going on for too long,” said Doshi, whose daughter is in Class IX.
The Calcutta diocese of the Church of North India had on Friday asked 15 schools under its wing to resume in-person classes from Monday. Several other private schools, too, decided to switch to offline classes citing improved weather conditions.
The government had earlier ordered an extension of the summer vacation in schools by 11 days, till June 26, citing “heatwave like conditions”. The order is not applicable to schools in the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
“We want to get back into normal school-life without any break. On-and-off classes break the tempo,” said John Stephen, acting principal of La Martiniere for Boys.
“When children come to school, they learn more than academics. They interact with each other, learn to adjust with each other and to situations, which are important for children to grow. Online learning is highly isolated. Physical classes are important for children to grow and get a knowledge of community life, social life and teamwork,” he said.
Teachers said two years of online classes impacted academic learning.
In one school, a student of Class III has been found to be still using her finger to follow a line in a book, which ideally eyes should do. Incomplete writing has been a constant complaint in several schools.
“We have to work on their reading and writing skills. Handwriting has deteriorated and the imagination to think and write has also suffered," said Nupur Ghosh, vice-principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy.
Ghosh said children were happy to be back on campus and two words that resonated on the campus throughout the day were “play” and “meeting friends”.
“We saw them playing on the ground, unstructured play where they enjoyed running around with no definite purpose,” she said.