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Hill schools seek to allay coronavirus fear

Guardians to present medical certificates for their wards

By Vivek Chhetri in Darjeeling

  • Published 14.02.20, 1:51 AM
  • Updated 14.02.20, 1:51 AM
St Joseph’s School (North Point) in Darjeeling
St Joseph’s School (North Point) in Darjeeling (File photo)

Many schools with international boarders in the hills have started requesting guardians to obtain medical certificates for their wards before they rejoin after a three-month winter vacation in order to allay parents’ concerns about the safety of students in the wake of spreading coronavirus.

The Darjeeling hills have over 50 ICSE schools with around 18,000 students, of whom nearly 3,000 are boarders.

Many of the boarders belong to countries like Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and even UK, UAE and Japan and some African nations.

Among the countries that have recorded coronavirus (COVD-2019) cases are Thailand, Nepal and Japan.

Fr Leo Alphonse Raj, principal of St Joseph’s School (North Point) in Darjeeling, sent a message to the guardians of all students, including day scholars and boarders, to obtain medical certificates for the children from registered doctors two days prior to their return to the campus.

“It is unfortunate that the coronavirus has been scaring people all over the world.. and some of you are worried about the safety of your children. The school has been trying to make your children’s stay a comfortable one… therefore dear Parents you are requested to obtain a MEDICAL FITNESS CERTIFICATE from a registered doctor, both new and old boys, two days prior to returning to the school. If any of your children has flu, cough, cold, fever or any other illness, please make sure that he is properly checked before he reaches the school…,” reads the message by Fr Raj.

Fever and cough are some of the symptoms of the disease.

North Point has around 460 borders, who include 30 from Thailand, 70 from Nepal, 30 from Bhutan and some from Bangladesh.

“At least we can be cautious by taking proper steps to take care of ourselves. Prevention is better than cure!” Fr Raj’s message reads.

North Point will reopen on February 24.

Among the schools which wanted the children to come with medical certificates is Himali Boarding School, Kurseong, which has around 360 boarders. They include 30 from Thailand.

St Paul’s School, Darjeeling, also is mulling over a mechanism to stem the fear of the disease.

“We have a considerable number of students from Nepal, Bangladesh and Japan and expats from the UK, Africa and Dubai,” said Rev. Joy Halder, rector, St Paul’s.

The schools will start reopening from February 17.

While the school authorities are aware that screening of passengers from abroad would be conducted at all airports, they have said many students from Nepal and Bhutan travel by road to reach the hills. The administration has set up camps along the India-Nepal border but the schools do not want to take any chance.

“Boarders share a common dormitory and it is natural for parents to be worried. We have already started receiving calls from worried parents,” said Rev. Halder.

St Paul’s will reopen in the last week of February.

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