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The pros and cons of reopening schools

August 26, 2021

The Department of School Education and Literacy has come out with a standard operating procedure for reopening schools.

The Department of School Education and Literacy has come out with a standard operating procedure for reopening of schools. But must they restart after October 15? The answer would depend on the people this question is being posed to. Parents or guardians would think twice before sending their wards back to school right now. Six months since the start of the pandemic, India’s Covid curve has not been very encouraging.

The country recorded over 41,200 cases on average and at least 4 states accounted for 75% of the caseload. Would parents send their children to school in the next 10 days under these circumstances?
The third way to answer it would be to look at the scenario with objectivity. Students, who should have been attending classes and developing their cognitive and social skills, are still confined to their homes.

Learning ability has been lost and experts also point at several social consequences of schools remaining closed for a longer period in the Indian socio-economic context. Online education has become a reality, but no one would dispute the fact that it’s no substitute for physical classrooms. While several countries in Europe reopened schools, some had to roll back or modify their decision in view of the third wave of transmission.

Are our schools ready to reopen? The vast Indian educational landscape is quite unlike others in the world. There is a gulf of social infrastructure between government and private schools. The SOP released by the Centre allows states to take the call, but it would be too much of a responsibility.

Do our government schools have thermal scanners to check the temperature of students? Is it possible to segregate entry and exit, ensure masking, social distancing, create separate spaces for lunch breaks and mid-day meals, and use shifts for classes? No, we are not talking about safe drinking water, hand hygiene and sanitation yet, let alone disinfection of classrooms, labs and libraries. As it is, a number of states have decided not to reopen before Sept. 31 because the Covid transmission has peaked differently in different states. With the festive season on its way, this is going to be closely followed.