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Back to school or not?
Anne and I started this newsletter some weeks ago when it looked like our schools were getting back to normal. We were pleased to say that we did not have a single person who had been taken ill with the Coronavirus. However, in the last few weeks it has all changed to where almost every family has someone down with it. In India the virus is spreading like a forest fire. Our CEO, Anil and his family have had it, as too has our web designer and his whole family. Mukesh, our Headmaster, now has the virus and has a sore throat and cough so we are hoping that it will not get any worse.

Luckily there are few symptoms that any of our teachers or children have caught the coronavirus. However, we are taking the teachers to a test centre to have them checked. We would like to have had them tested for antibodies but that is not available.

Since the film below, the government has ordered all schools to be closed until further notice. Our staff are going to be working from home and the children will be taught in the villages as previously.

Below is what we started to write before the virus hit.
Senior pupils have already returned to regular classes with Covid-19 health and safety measures in place with class 10 and 12 students working at full stretch to prepare for those all important Board exams which have been postponed from February to June. At the same time, the new intake of class 10 and 12 pupils will begin in April, so for a couple of months we will have extra students in school and have to find space for them to work in a socially distanced manner.
Class 5 and class 8 pupils will also start attending daily in April, as these are the final primary and middle school years and it is important that they complete the curriculum. All other pupils will attend on alternate days so that we can keep class sizes down to the 50% the government requires.
Although locally there seem to have been few documented cases of Coronavirus, the school is taking health and safety very seriously. Pupils are temperature checked each morning and hand sanitizer is readily available. Senior pupils are required to wear masks, as are staff when moving around the school. This probably feels rather strange to our pupils and staff who come from communities where no-one takes any precautions at all against the virus and those who do tend to be laughed at. We really have no idea what the true numbers are, or why the disease doesn’t (yet?) seem to have affected our rural communities, but we are determined to follow advice and do our best to protect our staff, pupils and their families.
What is very clear is how happy the children are to be back in school and how determined they are to make up for lost time. Although most of the students when interviewed said that the lockdown had been an opportunity to spend more time with family members – something they all appreciated – most were relieved to be back in the classroom and felt that they had missed face to face interaction with teachers. A few senior pupils who had access to smart phones and Wi-fi had been able to work at their own pace at home, and access teaching materials from the internet, and felt that this had encouraged them to study well, but others, and younger pupils in particular, were anxious that they had fallen behind and had struggled to study on their own. As always, many girls said that they were expected to do household tasks and not given the time to study. This is always an issue for girls who take the brunt of the work at home before and after school, but without the time spent in the classroom away from those demands it was difficult for some to keep up with the work.
This next academic year is going to be a testing time for everyone, as they attempt to cover missed curriculum and work towards the delayed exams. We can only hope that a new wave of the virus doesn’t cause any more disruption to schools in India, and that we can look forward to returning to normality.
If you know anyone who you think might be interested in this newsletter, please forward it on.
Anne Gilmour BA PGCE DipSpLD 
Robin Garland MBE
Project Mala
01904 341004