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In-person school attendance not mandatory, says Gujarat government to high court

The high court has posted further hearing on this PIL in June.

In-person school attendance not mandatory, says Gujarat government to high court
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The state government on Wednesday told the Gujarat high court that attendance in schools affiliated to the state board is not compulsory. Attendance is left to the discretion of schools and parents, the government said.

The bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri recorded the government's statement. "...so far as students studying in the state schools affiliated to state board, the attendance for physical appearance in the schools for academic year 2021-22 would not be compulsory," the statement said. "...and it is left to the discretion of respective schools and the parents". While the government clarified that sending students to schools depends on parents' choice, it reiterated that the online system of education is not permitted now.

While conceding that the attendance is not mandatory, and it would not be counted for the final examinations, the government lawyer cited the central government's guidelines under which Covid-19 would be out of the purview of the Disaster Management Act.

The state government was asked to clarify the attendance rules after a PIL objected to the state education department's circular issued on February 18 mandating 100% attendance in schools and the discontinuance of online education from February 21.

The petitioner had contended that the decision has put children at risk because all of them are not vaccinated. Moreover, the petitioner said, the government's insistence on mandatory attendance runs contrary to the state government's and the Centre's Covid-19 guidelines which restrict occupancy in closed spaces.

The petitioner requested the court's indulgence with regard to schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education. But the court refused, saying that it cannot bind those who are not before the court.

The relaxation with regard to attendance remained limited to schools affiliated to the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board.

The high court has posted further hearing on this PIL in June.

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