Teachers perform ‘aarti’ to welcome back students on their return at a Bengaluru school (PTI)
Locked up at home and tethered to digital screens for almost 10 months, schoolchildren across three states – Kerala, Karnataka and Assam – on Friday started the New Year by breaking free of the shackles of the pandemic to step into their classrooms for the first time since the shutdown.
Kerala reported at least 95% attendance among students of classes X and XII as both government and aided schools opened partially. Around 2,400 school campuses with 3,000-odd high school and higher secondary sections came alive with the chatter of delighted children even as the authorities took extra care to ensure strict adherence to social distancing norms and shifts with small batches.
In Karnataka, children waltzed into campuses decked up for their return. Attendance in schools and PU colleges was pegged at over 40% on the first day, which officials expect to be much higher from next Monday. “It’s a Friday and the first day of the New Year. We had anticipated 50% attendance and that was more or less the turnout,” primary and secondary education minister S Suresh Kumar said.
The Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka claimed attendance was around 85% in some institutions. Teachers in many places welcomed students with traditional aarti and a shower of flower petals. The only thing cloaking the happiness and sense of relief all around were masks.
Assam had a more circumspect start to regular schooling, with most guardians in Guwahati adopting a wait-and-watch strategy before deciding whether it is safe to send their children back to the classrooms. In Lakhimpur, Bidyamati Hajong, a Class 4 student, said, “It’s a great feeling to come to school on the first day of the year. We don’t have digital gadgets at home for online classes.”