Amid the fresh surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities in Punjab, the focus is now on the schools with state recording a sharp spike in teachers and students testing positive for the virus. In a span of 13 days, the state recorded 82.7 per cent rise in positive cases among students and 88.5 per cent among teachers ahead of final exams (non-board) in March.
According to data procured by The Indian Express from the state health department, 78 students and 31 teachers had tested positive between January 7 (the day Punjab schools re-opened) and on February 8. This includes a 40-year-old teacher who died. She was teaching at Government Senior Senior Secondary School in Galib Kalan village of Ludhiana, and had succumbed to virus-related complications on January 23.
A major surge followed between February 8 and 21. Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, nodal officer of Covid-19 cases in Punjab, said, “Till February 21, 452 students and 271 teachers have tested positive. Cases have been reported from 1,392 schools (private and government) of Punjab. Till now, one death has been reported from Ludhiana. We need to study the positivity rate among students and teachers to reach a conclusion, otherwise the standard instructions to the education department stand, that the school needs to be closed for a minimum 48 hours, sanitisation needs to be done and staff/students need to be tested, which is being followed.”
A total of 374 new cases were reported among students and 240 new cases among teachers between February 8 and 21 — an increase of 82.7 per cent and 88.5 per cent respectively.
A total of 109 cases of teachers as well as students were reported till February 8. This number rose to 723 by February 21, a cumulative increase by 84.9 per cent in total cases.
Will review: Education minister
Speaking to The Indian Express, Punjab Education Minister Vijayinder Singla said: “Yes, there has been a spike in cases of Covid amongst students and teachers. We will be reviewing the condition yet again on Tuesday.”
Maximum school cases in Nawanshahr
The maximum cases have been reported from Nawanshahr — 121 students and 18 teachers. According to Dr Ramesh, district epidemiologist, Ludhiana, 75 students and 31 teachers have tested positive there till now, including one death.
In Sangrur according to District Education Officer Malkiat Singh Khosa, “four students and a teacher of a middle school had tested positive and all have recovered.”
Dr Ranju Singla, civil surgeon, Muktsar, said, “A total of 29 teachers and 10 students have tested positive till now in Muktsar district, out of these, six nursing students of Badal Nursing Institute and four students of a government school tested positive on Sunday itself. All are under isolation.”
Dr Tejwan Singh Dhillon, civil surgeon, Bathinda, said “Twelve students of Government High School, Kattar Singh Wala village, tested positive on Sunday, while five teachers of Bathinda schools have positive till now, of which four are from Kattar Singh Wala village. School is closed as of now.”
Classes for students of classes IX-XII had opened mid-October and were being run on hybrid mode (both offline and online). On January 7, the Punjab government had reopened schools for classes V-VIII on an optional basis. From January 27 onwards, schools were reopened for classes III-IV while from February 1 onwards, schools were reopened for the rest of the primary classes as well.
Though most private schools are having classes in batches for 2-3 hours a day only, government schools started classes from 10 am to 3 pm from January 7 onwards and from February 22 onwards, the revised timings for primary classes are 9 am to 3 pm, while for middle, high and senior secondary classes, the timings are 9 am to 3.20 pm.
From March onwards, most schools (government as well as private) plan to hold offline exams after providing online studies for almost the entire session.
“Offline mode of exams all of a sudden and that too for a three-hour duration is itself a cause of panic for most students. They are stressed and now the spike in cases has added further to the panic. The Punjab education minister must look at the conditions and accordingly, modifications need to be done in upcoming exams,” said Vikram Dev Singh, president of the Democratic Teachers Front.
He further said, “Students have already experienced stress, hence mission 100% results should not be forced upon them. There are many other criteria to judge the aptitude of students.”
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