Various schools in Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) have started running classes in the physical presence of students and teachers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The authorities in Kathmandu Metropolitan City have yet to issue a notice on operating physical classes. KMC's Education Department Chief Ram Prasad Subedi told NepalNews that the district level meeting to be held in presence of Kathmandu's Chief District Officer (CDO) on either Tuesday or Wednesday would decide whether to allow the schools in the valley to run physical classes. He expressed his view that keeping in mind the current COVID-19 tally, there seems to have less risk of viral transmission. He also said that the officials at the KMC were holding discussions about whether to allow schools to run physical classes before Badashain and Tihar festival. Education Department Chief Subedi said that the District Administration Office is likely to allow the schools to run physical classes.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Sunday confirmed the 838 new cases of coronavirus infection with additional 73 positive cases in the antigen test. Currently, the COVID count of the country has reached 777,163 with 26,757 active cases. The country has been witnessing the rise of 1,127 new cases on average on the daily basis for the past week.
Meanwhile, Sameer KC, coordinator at Geetanjali School based in Naya Bazaar, Kathmandu, told NepalNews that the school has started running physical classes recently on the request of guardians as the students progress reports were not satisfactory. He also informed that the school has planned to run +2 and bachelors level classes from tomorrow. "We have been running classes in a well organised four shifts. The classes for grades IV, V, VI and VII are held from 6:00 am to 11:00 am, for grades I, II and III from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm; for grades nursery, LKG and UKG from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm; and for grades VIII, IX and X from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm," said KC.
Although no official notice has been issued on running physical classes yet, the school has been running the physical classes in coordination with the District COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (DCCMC) following the rule about re-opening organisations in the physical presence of one-third of the total students.
"We have briefed students on the moral behaviour and the discipline to be maintained. For instance, students have to maintain social distancing and are strictly prohibited from touching each other's belongings, " KC said and added, "It is easier to monitor younger students because they are very obedient. The use of masks, sanitiser is mandatory, for students as well as guardians who come to school to pick up students." "We have also advised the guardians to not send their children to school who are even mildly sick or have sick family members at home, and to only send them to school after a PCR test," Geetanjali School coordinator said.
It has been reported that the school conducted their first terminal examinations online but distributed the results physically.
The school started running physical classes after the guardians requested the school administration to run physical classes since the virtual classes were not on a level with physical classes.
Meanwhile, Dr Priyanka Gupta MBBS, MS(ENT) at Midas Technologies in Kathmandu opined that opening schools in the physical presence of students and teachers were not safe. However, she also expressed her view that the students were left with no alternative options as virtual classes were not enough for the growth of the learning process of school children. It seems like the coronavirus pandemic will not easily go away, so, we need to learn to live with it now. Apart from the risk of transmission of the viral infection, the present weather conditions are not in favour of the resistance power. The fever and common cold also raise the risk of transmission of coronavirus infection. The third wave of COVID-19 along variants could be more dangerous, said Dr Gupta.
Likewise, Dr Yagya told NepalNews "As doctors, we definitely do not recommend reopening schools right now. Though it has not been proved that the third wave of COVID-19 would have the worst impact on the health of children, we can still learn a lesson from the second wave. Children do not show symptoms of it immediately. In most cases, the incubation period for the children is two to three weeks." He said, "It is a difficult choice to make a decision on running physical classes since the risk is very high. The study shows that the infection hinders the growth of children's mental health. In the case of reopening schools, my question is who will be held responsible if the cases increased?"
Meanwhile, President of Private and Boarding School's Organisation (PABSON) Tikaram Puri said that preparation was being made to open the schools in the physical presence of teachers and students. He said the PABSON has been making preparation to run physical classes. "The schools will be instructed to adopt health protocols and run classes in different shifts avoiding the gathering of students in large numbers. Likewise, the school administration will be asked to hold programmes to raise awareness of COVID-19 infection. Similarly, the schools will have to make available the sanitisers and make it mandatory to use masks and maintain the physical distance.
PABSON President Puri was of the view that it would not be that difficult to manage the schools to run the physical classes. He said that the parents and guardians of the students were aware of the risks of COVID-19. He informed that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has divided schools into four zones — Red, yellow, orange and green. The DCCMC will be monitoring schools. The schools categorised as green and orange zones will only be allowed to run physical classes.
Meanwhile, the district administration office has already allowed operating businesses in the entertainment sector. The nightsclubs and cinema hall have been allowed to operate by maintaining health protocols.