Concerned about the rise in COVID-19 cases, an association of schools in Gujarat on Friday urged Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel to consider discontinuing offline education at schools in a phased manner. Gujarat on Thursday recorded 573 new cases of COVID-19, while 97 cases of Omicron have been detected in the state so far.
Though the state government has not declared any data about infected students so far, a rough estimate suggests that over 200 have contracted COVID-19 in the last few months, said Bhaskar Patel, the president of the Gujarat State School Administrators’ Federation. In the letter, the federation expressed concern about the sudden rise in coronavirus cases and emergence of Omicron variant in Gujarat in the last few days.
Following a significant fall in new infections, the Gujarat government had first allowed physical reopening of higher secondary and secondary schools from July and later gave a go ahead to the offline lessons for Classes 6 to 8. From November-end, primary schools for Classes 1 to 5 also resumed imparting lessons from their premises.
“Though both online and offline modes are available at present, only 10 per cent school students are taking advantage of online education, as 90 per cent are coming to schools. With cases of COVID-19 and its new variant Omicron rising, school students are also getting infected,” the letter stated. The Federation also drew the chief minister’s attention to incidents of teaching and non-teaching staff of some schools also getting infected.
“We urge the government to monitor the situation for one week and consider stopping offline education for Classes 1 to 5 from January 10. If the situation gets worse, a similar decision should be taken for Classes 6 to 11 in subsequent weeks. This will help us in fighting the possible third wave of the pandemic,” the federation stated in the letter. Since students in the 15 to 18 age group are eligible for vaccination against coronavirus, children under the age of 15 are more vulnerable to infection if they keep visiting school, Patel said.