Tripura reintroduces neighbourhood classes as Centre okays reopening schools

In a notification issued on Thursday, elementary Education Director Saju Waheed said the neighbourhood classes would resume from October 5

A month after abruptly suspending ‘neighbourhood classes’, Tripura has announced to reintroduce the open-air classes from October 5, maintaining standard operating protocol (SOP) issued by the Education Ministry. The decision comes soon after the state government announced to reopen schools from classes 9-12 for students who voluntarily were not to attend classes.

READ | Tripura to reopen schools on voluntary basis from October 5 

In a notification issued on Thursday, elementary Education Director Saju Waheed said the neighbourhood classes would resume from October 5. These ambitious classes, which started in August, were necessitated after a survey of the education department revealed 94,000 students could not access online classes due to lack of access to phones. These classes were started specifically for students without access to online studies due to lack of gadgets.

While no specific report was found of spread of COVID through these classes held under tree shade, on pavements and other innovative ways, the government decided on August 29 to temporarily suspend them, shortly after Tripura reported a sudden spurt in coronavirus cases.

Tripura now has 283 COVID casualties as per latest reports, and a cumulative figure of 26,066 COVID-19 positive people till date. Among them, only 5,184 are active patients and the rest have recovered and a few have migrated to other states.

READ | 29% school students have no access to phone, Tripura govt mulls neighbourhood classes as alternative 

The fatality rate stands at 1.09 per cent, slightly less than 1.11 per cent last month when Tripura had the highest fatality rate in North East India. Citing the situation as improving and eyeing freedom given by the central government to reopen schools educational institutions, the government has called neighbourhood classes back to life.

As per new regulations for these classes, students from class 1-5 would study for 8 hours a week and students of class 6 to 8 will study for 10 hours a week. Each teacher will take two classes every day by creating specific groups. Timing of each class will be one-and-a-half to two hours. While the reduced syllabus of SCERT will be taught from class 1 to 8.

The government has laid special emphasis on hygiene and maintaining social distancing. Students would be free to choose their study circles closest to home since neighbourhood classes would be under the open sky. However, schools classrooms can’t be used for these classes in any way, the government has clarified. In addition, students and teachers would be needed to wear masks and wash hands with soaps or sanitizer frequently. Any student suffering from fever or any other illness would be unable to join the classes.

Continuous monitoring would be conducted by district education officers, school inspectors and OSDs while academic leaders and academic coordinators would be monitoring the entire process. Neighbourhood classes would not be effective in containment zones anyway. Earlier on August 9, the education minister said even though the department had started online classes through pre-recorded videos, telecast in cable television, ‘Ektu Khelo Ektu Poro’ programmes which did not require smartphones to reach as many students as possible.

A survey conducted by the Tripura New Disha (new direction) cell under ‘Ektu Khelo Ektu Poro’ in 3,974 school — 94,013 students (29 per cent) did not have access to online classes amid the lockdown. Tripura has around 27,000 teachers imparting education in 4,400 government and government-aided schools across the state.

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