Schools across Kashmir report fresh Covid cases, parents worried

Srinagar: At-least 50 students from two south Kashmir schools including 36 students in a private school in Kulgam district and 14 in a government school in Anantnag district were found infected with coronavirus along with a handful of teachers and staff during random testing drives in schools in Kashmir over the past couple of days. Concerned parents are now requesting the government to close the schools to safeguard children’s health.

Apart from the two south Kashmir schools, which reported high number of infections among the students, two staff members of a prominent girl’s higher secondary school in Srinagar, a teacher and two students in two government schools of central Kashmir’s Budgam, a staff member and a student of a higher secondary school in north Kashmir’s Bandipora were also reported positive for the disease.

All the six schools which reported fresh infections have been closed for various durations. Two schools in the city outskirts were already closed a few days back after their staff members tested positive.

“These are scary reports and we don’t want the lives of our children to be at stake. I am confused whether to stop sending my child to school for the time being or to allow her to continue,” said Shameema, mother of a class-10 girl student in Srinagar.

The schools were opened for the students of 9th to 12th classes from March 1, 2021 and for 6th to 8th classes from March 8, almost a year after they were closed in March 2020 owing to the pandemic. The government also allowed opening of primary schools after March 15. Fresh concerns are also triggered by rapidly rising Covid-19 numbers in the Kashmir valley, particularly in capital Srinagar. For the past six days, the Union Territory has reported over 200 cases daily, ranging from 210 cases on Friday last to 373 cases on Wednesday, which was the highest daily count in 103 days.

Overall, the month of March saw 4,519 coronavirus infections in the UT, an increase of 133% compared to February, and 37 deaths. In February, there were 1,935 cases and 21 deaths.

“Many schools have closed owing to Covid. The schools were opened after a year and now they have scheduled unit examinations next week. If we don’t send our wards they will miss their exams. There is too much tension. Government should close all the schools for the time being and postpone unit exams,” said Zubaida Noor, elder sister of a class-8 student.

Most of the schools have asked the parents to send their wards on alternate days to maintain Covid protocols such as social distancing. Some schools have also decided to run two shifts in the day to reduce the class strength by half. Some schools have not yet opened primary classes.

“What shall we do? We have given a consent letter to school that they won’t be responsible in case of any health emergency. If cases continue to rise, the government should think of closing schools or ensuring that standard operating procedures (SoPs) are enforced. It is not possible for small children to follow SoPs,” said Javaid Ahmad, whose child studies in class-1.

Calls to director school education M Younis Malik and additional secretary school education department Nasir Ahmad Wani yielded no response.

A senior official of the education department told a local daily on Wednesday that the government has issued fresh guidelines suggesting schools should prefer online classes.

“The school education department will reiterate the government directions so that schools prefer online classes. We can put offline classes on hold,” he said. (Agency)

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