Interrupted learning, confusion and stress, rise in dropout rates, and increased exposure to violence and exploitation. These are not the chaotic conditions of the neighbouring state after insurgency, but the after-effects of the closure of schools on children. Despite having better immunity against COVID-19, children have been deprived of a wholesome environment of learning, possible only in a school, since the outbreak of the pandemic. The situation is not as alarming as it was 17 months ago. Now, healthcare and civil administration are better equipped to cope up with probable challenges. Schools should also be re-opened without any delay for the betterment of students.
From worse to better
Around the world, doctors and scientists have observed that Coronavirus and its variants are not as lethal to children as they are to adults and elderly people. And the same trend was witnessed in India, too. When the mayhem was at its peak in April and May this year, only 0.33 per cent of deaths happened among children while they constitute around 40 per cent of the total population. On the other hand, the loss they have borne staying at home for such a long period is quite immeasurable. Obesity, addiction to TV & internet, mental stress, and impulsive & violent behaviour, adversely affected children’s physical and mental health in the last one and a half years. And, not only children and their parents, even whole society is bearing a big socioeconomic cost of not sending them to school.
School is their second home
According to the research made and published by UNESCO, every month, a student suffers from two months of cumulative learning loss for remaining away from school. Their continuous absence from school may permanently reduce their rate of learning. Moreover, beyond academic learning, schools are the places that shape the overall personality of a student sharing humanistic values and a composite environment. Unfortunately, such a holistic learning environment cannot be recreated in virtual classrooms. But, it does not mean that there is no need for strict precautions amidst the ongoing pandemic. So, all the SOPs must be followed by school authorities and parents should cooperate with them wilfully.
Handle with care
Before reopening, there is an urgent need for improvements in school infrastructure and facilities. Authorities must make a thorough assessment of school premises. As physical distancing cannot be avoided in classrooms and face masks should be mandatory for all, adequate seating arrangements with proper ventilation should be ensured beforehand. The permission of entering inside the school should be given to only those teachers and administrative staff who had already taken both doses of anti-COVID vaccines. Besides, they should be trained on health safety protocols to ensure physical distancing and hygiene practices. Special emphasis should be given on proper cleaning of toilets and dining areas. Hand wash in sufficient quantity should always be available in these areas.
The best way to manage a crisis is staying strong against all odds, submission to circumstances guides only into a blind alley. Parents’ concern about the health of their wards can be hardly ignored, but seizing all those opportunities which play a pivotal role in the upbringing of children will be quite irrational and unjustified. So, it is the demand of time to have a balanced outlook on health and education. A war cannot be won without a face-off. If all the preparations are made; there is a need to move ahead with a winning attitude.
(The article is authored by Nitin Vijay, Founder and MD of Motion Education. It does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of India TV)