Hiware Bazar, a village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, which got rid of Covid in mid-May, has become the first place in the country to reopen schools since the second wave pandemic gripped the nation.
Not only has it started its schools, but the village has also gone one step ahead and asked the state government to think on a similar line and reopen schools in rural areas where Covid-19 cases have come down significantly. Schools from standard V to standard X have started functioning in the village, recording almost 100 per cent attendance.
“We are following strict Covid-19 norms and have started secondary schools. One-hundred-and-ninety students study in standard five to seven and 115 students study from standard eight to ten,” said Padma Shri Popatrao
Pawar said after the village became Covid free, parents and teachers called for reopening the schools. “We saw that students were suffering a lot in terms of their studies. Families of students did not have smartphones and even those who had faced network problems. Some students could not attend
Pawar said that everyone in the village was worried that their children’s education was suffering in the absence of regular classes. “Online classes were not serving the purpose. So, we discussed the issue with parents who were willing to give us in writing that they are sending their
The village panchayat officials coordinated with teachers, doctors and
“We are following Covid-appropriate behaviour to keep the virus away, but we could not have let our children suffer by closing schools indefinitely. So, we reopened schools,” said Raju Thanage, a resident of
“We have complete faith in Popatrao Pawar. The
“My son studies in the ninth standard, and he is happy to go to school again,” said Vimal Thanage, another resident. “Students have suffered a lot as some homes don’t have two phones, and if a family has two or more children, problems arise. Moreover, as most parents are busy with their farm work, they don’t have time to sit with children. We hope the schools continue to remain open,” he said.
Like for Covid-19, the village panchayat has enforced a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) ensures schools run smoothly and that risk to children, teachers or parents is minimised. Minimal physical interaction is a key to protecting everyone from the virus.
“Parents, teachers, pupils and even gram panchayat members have to follow the SOP. We have stopped outdoor games so that students don’t come in close contact with one another. School timings have been reduced to three hours, and there is no lunch break. Social-distancing norms and the wearing of masks are strictly followed. Classrooms and toilets are sanitised regularly, and every child, teacher, and non-teaching staff member is screened for Covid symptoms. We have the necessary infrastructure and facilities to implement Covid protocol,” said a secondary school teacher, who did not want to be identified as it’s a government school.
Pawar said, “As our classrooms and toilets were already big enough with adequate ventilation and light, we didn’t find it hard to follow social-distancing norms. The classrooms are running with almost 100 per cent attendance.”
Students from nearby villages also come to Hiware Bazar schools, and the school authorities and village panchayats take care they are adequately screened for Covid symptoms.
We discussed the issue with parents who were willing to give us in writing that they are sending their children to school at their risk
–Popatrao Pawar , up-sarpanch
“We have students coming to our schools from four neighbouring villages. We take extra care to ensure they do not carry the virus to the school.
They have to undergo regular screening. We have asked students to report to us if they have any Covid symptoms or if anybody in their home has them. We have three doctors in the village who can help us treat them,” said Pawar.
The school teachers live in the same village, and it has made things easy. The school does not have official permission to function as the state has not allowed educational institutions to reopen. But at the same time, the district education officials have not stopped the schools from working.
Although nobody has on record said anything in this regard, it seems the state education officials want to observe the situation minutely. If the model works, they may replicate it elsewhere.
“Our team visited the village after they approached us for permission to start schools. Though they don’t have official permission to start schools, their proposal has been sent to higher-ups. We have not stopped them from opening schools as the parents requested reopening schools and took responsibility for their children’s safety. They are following all norms. Children are even asked not to gather after school hours, and school authorities make sure they leave separately,” said an education officer.