Rashid Paul

HC issues notice to DSE on school reopening SOPs

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Srinagar: The High Court on Friday issued a notice to J&K government in a petition seeking action against Director School Education Kashmir for “recklessly” ordering opening of schools in Kashmir amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is hardly any school equipped with sanitization material or hygienic sanitary system to check or reduce the vulnerability (of students and teachers) under the precarious conditions,” Azra Ismail, the petitioner pleaded the court through advocate Salih Pirzada.

Her petition said “countless government schools in Srinagar city are housed in private buildings where there is hardly any lavatory facility or portable water and proper ventilation of classrooms”.

The SOPs are likely to remain elusive for exposing the inmates to vulnerability of Covid-19 contagion especially within or around containment zones, it said.

Once there is a strict direction from the concerned District Disaster Management authorities to restrict the entry of public in containment zones, opening of schools in containment, red zones becomes questionable, reads the petition.

It said the Director School Education Kashmir has failed to implement the SOPs and guidelines in respect of the containment zones and red zones declared by the government.

“He has violated the SOPs and guidelines of the government and District Disaster Management with impunity, as such, action as warranted under law may be taken against all the concerned officials responsible for the reckless exercise endangering human life,” it pleaded.

J&K administration on 31st of August issued guidelines for opening of all schools and all the schools were opened.

Most of the schools, according to the petitioner, had close to zero attendance.

Fifty percent school staff was required to attend the duties as per the government authorities.

It is mentionable that as per the SOPs and guidelines, the schools which fall within the containment zones have to remain off because of the Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the government under the Disaster Management Act.

“However, regardless of such restrictions teachers are being compelled by the government to attend the schools in contravention to the SOPs and guidelines,” says the petition.

It also said the teachers having the broadband facilities at their respective homes were giving online classes and there was no reason for the government to open the schools when the Covid-19 is characteristically on a rise.

“Opening the schools with 50 percent staff strength has not provided any fruitful results to help the student community, and on contrary has disrupted the orientation of online classes kept functional indigenously by the teachers,” it added.

According to the petition, the teachers attending the schools are facing lot of difficulties for want of requisite infrastructure to withstand the onslaught of pandemic.

They have to remain concentrated in the staff rooms which further corrode their professional potential, it said.

Emphasizing on the poor infrastructure in government-run schools, the petition said “these schools lack the basic essentials like connectivity, drinking water, bathrooms, washrooms, sanitization and many other things.”

“The virtual mode is an alternative for direct teaching from the precincts of schools to tide over the pandemic conditions rather than a stray presence of teachers in scholastically sterile ambience,” it says.

However, the prohibition on fast speed mobile Internet by the government too has spoiled the academics of hundreds of thousands of students in Kashmir since the past one year, say the parents.

The judges directed the Education department to inform the court about the measures being taken to ensure compliance with SOPs and the COVID guidelines on the issue of reopening of schools at this stage.

“In view of the seriousness of the issue as stated in the application, the reply shall be positively filed within one week from today,” they directed.

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