Wednesday, June 29News That Matters

Opening schools

THE pandemic has thrown the school system out of gear across the country and there seems to be no end to the ordeal of the young students, parents and teachers. Different states have, over the past nearly two years, tried out their own variations to attend to the challenges, but the results have been mixed. There is a broad consensus though that projecting online learning as a substitute to physical attendance puts a vast majority at a clear disadvantage. The digital divide is stark and its repercussions have been brutal. Amidst the third wave, the day Maharashtra reopened schools while making it clear that there was no compulsion to atend, two villages in Haryana’s Fatehabad district announced that considering the learning loss to students, they have decided to defy the state government’s decision on keeping schools closed.

In normal circumstances, such a resounding encore for education would warrant celebratory reactions, but Covid-19 is a different beast. Having to choose between the safe health of students and their education is a tough ask. Opinions on whether or not to open schools remain divided, despite surveys and field reports indicating how learning levels have been impacted because of schools being shut. Reading and numeracy skills have taken a big hit, especially among students in primary classes and in rural areas.

Immunisation for those above 15 commenced on January 3 and discussions around reopening now centre around speeding up inoculation in this age group. The aim is to vaccinate all the eligible teenagers in due course. A wait-and-watch policy is a prudent choice, for now, as the number of Covid-positive cases sees a gradual decline. There is no denying the loss suffered by children, but well-being is a crucial aspect of life. Opening schools and conduct of offline classes and examinations should be the way forward once the immediate threat reaches a low threshold level, as it did after the devastating second wave.

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