The Union Home Ministry on Saturday, August 29, 2020, issued the guidelines under Unlock 4.0. The guidelines clearly stated that schools, colleges and universities shall remain closed for regular classes till September 30, 2020. It further stated that students shall resume classes on a voluntary basis from September 21, 2020.
The long-standing discussion on whether to open schools and colleges in September ended with the announcement of these guidelines. Due to the alarming increase in the number of COVID cases, it is not wise to allow educational institutes to function, the government stated. The ministry of health and family welfare will issue guidelines regarding the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in due course of time. These SOPs have to be followed by senior school students, school staff and higher education students once institutions reopen.
According to the issued guidelines, students of classes 9-12 may be allowed to attend school in areas which do not come under containment zones, on a voluntary basis. The guidelines stated that the attendance will be subjected to written consent by the parents or guardians. It will be implemented with effect from September 21, 2020.
Research scholars, postgraduate students involved in technical and professional programs needing laboratories and other facilities may also be permitted at higher educational institutes from September 21, 2020. This will be implemented by the department of higher education with consultations from the home ministry with reference to the COVID situation.
Similarly, skill schools and entrepreneurship institutes may also be allowed to function from the same date. Besides, digital and distance learning shall be consistently encouraged, added the home ministry. The guidelines also suggested that states and union territories will be allowed to permit up to 50% teaching and non-teaching staff in schools. This will be done for the purposes of online teaching and tele-counselling related work. However, such provisions shall only be permitted outside of containment zones with effect from September 21.
Indian colleges, universities and teaching campuses have been closed since mid-march due to the COVID19 pandemic. The country now faces a huge challenge in opening up the educational institutions amid the rising COVID cases. Schools and college cannot be closed for long as it may dilute the standards of education provided and may also affect the academic future of nearly 290 million students.