More than eight months after the first coronavirus case was reported in the country, Lakshadweep remains the only place in India without a single reported case of Covid-19.
Several primary schools on the Lakshadweep Islands sported a fresh coat of paint with balloons adorning classrooms on Tuesday, as teachers welcomed students of Classes 1 to 5 for the first time this academic year.
The decision to restart in-person classes was taken by Dineshwar Sharma, Administrator of the Union territory (UT), after a meeting of Education Department officials with local body representatives and parent-teacher associations. Earlier, on September 21, Classes 6-12 had resumed on the islands.
With this, over 11,000 students on the 10 inhabited islands of the UT are now back in school. Classes for pre-primary students are yet to commence though.
A teacher at Government Junior Basic School on Amini Island said most of their 126 students in Classes 1-5 turned up. “There was thermal screening for kids at the gate. Everyone has to wear masks. Students have to wash their hands before entering classrooms. Only two students are permitted to sit on a bench,” he said. Classes are to be held alternately at the school, and only till noon. “Classes 2 and 4 will be held Monday, and the others the next day, and so on. Students of each grade will be coming to school three days a week.” The reopening of schools, he stressed, was a breather for the students as there is no major scope for full-time online classes due to Internet connectivity issues.
Showkath Ali, Assistant Educational Officer, Lakshadweep, said schools must get consent letters from parents. Instead of cooked midday meals, kits with essential items like rice, pulses etc are being distributed to students’ homes.
A headmaster of a government school in Kavaratti said a section of the parents have concerns about young children wearing masks for nearly four hours a day. He said they had advised children with respiratory problems to avoid attending school.
Lakshadweep, with its population of 64,000, has been successful in avoiding Covid-19 thanks to early preparedness, mandatory testing of residents before they arrive on the island and strict quarantine. Even before the national lockdown in March end, the UT authorities shut its airstrip and ports to tourists. Residents were allowed to return only if they had a Covid-negative certificate. Some of its residents who contracted Covid-19 are being treated in Kerala.
To get an entry permit, residents have to undergo 14 days of quarantine in a government-authorised facility in Kerala and then take a Covid test. Even if they test negative, they have to be in quarantine in Lakshadweep for seven days.
In zero-case Lakshadweep, over 11,000 back in schools
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