Many of Tamil Nadu’s educational institutions, which reopened partially or completely last week after months, appear to be only loosely following the government’s Covid protocol. Just days since physical classes began to resume, some students and teachers have already tested positive for the disease.
The state government allowed schools (grades 9 to 12), colleges and polytechnics, which had been closed since March this year, to reopen on September 1. Although 95 percent of teachers and staff in the state have been vaccinated, concerns about students remain.
To minimize the spread of infection, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been enacted for holding physical classes.
These include any offline session held with just 50 percent students at any one time, observing social distancing in the classroom, and a bar to force kids to attend school in person. College hostels should only be opened when necessary. Crowds should also be avoided in their dining rooms.
However, the institutions may not take the SOP seriously.
For example, at The New College, Chennai, students could be seen sitting in groups close together during lunch.
“Yes, we have to take physical distance. I sit with them because they are all my friends,” a student told NewsMadura.
In the kitchen, a cook preparing dough was not wearing a mask.
dr. A Hyder Ali, a senior faculty at The New College and deputy director of the institute’s hostel, called these cases exceptions: “It’s only like this today. Otherwise, only two students are allowed to sit at a desk for breakfast or lunch.”
Referring to the hostel, he said: “Due to Covid we only allow two students in each room. We used to have four or five.”
At Everwin Vidhyashram Senior Secondary School in northern Chennai, two students sit in each row, with less than the government-mandated two meters between them.
Although the school has staggered the interval times and put floor markings to avoid crowds, classrooms ignore the SOP.
“We only have 20 students in a class. Based on that, the number of students in a bench is determined. We don’t have a shift system but a rotation. Three days a week for each of the two batches,” said Dr. B Purushothaman, Founder and Senior Director of the School.
In central Tamil Nadu, some students and teachers have tested Covid positive less than a week after the reopening. However, authorities see no reason to panic.
“We are doing everything necessary according to protocol,” Health Minister Ma Subramanian said today.
Amid concerns, many colleges are holding camps to vaccinate their adult students — vaccination is mandatory for them — who may have missed their injections.
“They must present their vaccination certificates when entering the campus,” said the director of the new college, Dr Basheer Ahamed.