New Delhi: The Centre has asked state governments to prepare plan to reopen Eklavya Model Residential Schools for tribal children in a phased manner. The ministry of tribal affairs has asked state governments to prepare a detailed district-wise plan to reopen 285 residential schools which have 73,391 students. EMRS, considered premier schools, provide boarding and education for tribal students in remote districts. Speaking to ET, secretary (tribal affairs) Deepak Khandekar said, “We have asked states to prepare a plan to reopen Eklavya Model Residential schools. This is a decision which would be taken by respective district magistrates.

If district administration allows, we should not waste any time. The students would be called in a phased manner starting with senior classes like Classes 11 and 12. It is obvious that a senior student would be able to take care of hygiene issues better than a Class 6 student.” The ministry has not given any specific date by which the states would open the schools. “We cannot give a date. This is the domain of state governments, who in turn have empowered the district magistrates.

The decision is taken by district’s disaster management authority after taking an overall view of Covid-19 spread,” Khandekar said. The plans are being prepared on the basis of standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by ministry of health and family welfare for allowing students of Class 9 to 12 to visit schools for clearing doubts or take assignment sheets. Technical educational institutes have also been allowed to function.

According to sources, tribal dominated Schedule V area states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat may be the first ones to reopen these residential schools. A senior official told ET, “The spread of Covid-19 is under control in a few states so these could be the first ones to reopen some schools.” Sources said that there was an indication of north eastern states reopening residential schools but the Covid-19 cases have been increasing. “North eastern states had limited spread but now cases are increasing so this decision could be postponed there,” said the official.

The states and the Centre have been struggling to continue with classes for tribal students since the pandemic outbreak. Lack of devices and connectivity issues have been plaguing the endeavour to impart education to the students. “The students of EMRS returned home once the lockdown was implemented in March. Though several softwares have been used to continue online classes, most students live in remote villages with internet connectivity issues and do not have devices,” said the official.

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