One could say it was a back-to-school celebration of sorts on Wednesday. After two long years, schoolchildren had the first day at school. The atmosphere in schools around Mumbai was practically festive, packed with excitement, bustle and untrammelled joy, with parents, teachers, and students ecstatic at being able to return to the pre-Covid scenario. At the same time, schools were concerned about how to set first-timers and newcomers at ease on the first day and sustain a welcoming environment throughout the year.
For primary schoolers, their primary concern was where their classrooms were; parents too were somewhat overwhelmed, but at the same time glad that their kids were back in school. “I was relieved that my children are back in school,” said Bhupinder Kaur, a parent with children in the fourth and sixth grades. “They are overjoyed to see their old buddies and meet their teachers,” she added.
According to Ashika Ghag, parent of a first-grader, “My child was ecstatic to return to school and meet new classmates and teachers. In fact, we visited the school twice before it reopened, and she was overjoyed to be on campus.”
At various schools, teachers were busy encouraging their wards to be as comfortable as possible, welcoming them with flowers, books and cards, as well as putting on special dance performances to greet them. On their part, principals ensured that schooling began with enjoyable activities.
Juliet Cutinho, Principal, St. Xavier’s High School, Poonam Nagar, Andheri said, “We have a lot planned for this academic year, but the most essential thing is that they feel at ease. We’d start by concentrating on three keywords: create, collaborate, and cultivate. First and foremost, we believe in establishing a positive learning atmosphere in the classroom, then collaborating on how and what fundamentals are required, getting to the core through fun and exciting activities, acclimatizing kids to our culture, and lastly cultivating the necessary.”
Shweta Vajirkar, Headmistress, Nityanand Marg MPS, Mumbai, said, “This being the first year after the pandemic, we were excited to bring back the students, and this year, there is considerable enrolment. Parents were happy to be a part of our school and were cooperative. For the first month, we are only focusing on activity-based learning. For instance, children recite their tables as they are skipping. The teacher asks them to identify simple objects for concepts such as colour and shape.”
“Every day in assembly, we will be reminding them of the basics, such as the precautionary measures to be observed in Covid, through a song, in a fun way,” said Smita Ganatra, Head Teacher, Mumbai Public School Headteacher, Gundawali. “We also want our students to not bear heavy bookloads, and for this purpose, we have ensured that there are just three or four subjects in their timetable. We are not encouraging students to study right away, but rather, through engaging them in activities such as recognising and brushing up their fundamental concepts.”