The reopening of schools in India should not be based on a one-size-fits-all paradigm, but rather on the circumstances. According to current studies from throughout the world, the pandemic has had a relatively lesser impact on the health of infected children and adolescents than on other age groups. Though this assumption from the available data may be correct, no one can dispute the pandemic's negative influence on children's physical, mental, and emotional well-being during periods of lockdown, which has impacted the wider student population throughout the world for the past year and a half. With the pandemic's second wave decreasing in India, governments have begun reopening schools and colleges in stages in an effort to get kids back to school and guarantee their overall well-being.
However, when schools reopen in several areas, there has been much controversy about the feasibility of reopening schools in a scenario where the majority of the population under the age of 18 has yet to be vaccinated.
As word of a third wave from rich nations throughout the world arrives, the essay seeks to look into the benefits and drawbacks of such actions.
With the passage of time, reopening schools in a country the size and variety of India has become more of a need. A substantial percentage of the student population in rural India comes from locations where high-speed internet is unavailable or where households cannot afford a smartphone, preventing them from accessing education through digital media. More than half of pupils in both urban and rural regions of the country still do not have access to the internet. The impact of offline class closures due to COVID-19 is significant.
According to a recent UNESCO research, kids miss around two months of learning for every month they are not in class. Several additional reports from reputable organisations such as McKinsey and the Asian Development Bank emphasise the loss of learning that has come from the closing of schools throughout the world. Despite efforts to bring education to children through the internet utilising cutting-edge technology, online learning remains a poor alternative for physical presence, particularly for pupils in primary school. However, 14 state governments are planning to reopen schools across the country, as both parents and kids are eager to return to school now that the second wave has arrived.
Medical professionals from around the country have also backed the opening of schools, citing factual proof of the COVID-19 pandemic's minimal impact on children around the world. If specific limitations and regulations are in place, the reopening of schools may provide kids with an opportunity to leave their homes and return to traditional learning methods.
The choice by many states to open schools may appear to be appropriate at this moment, but given our previous experience with the unexpected rise of the second wave in India, a cautious and measured re-opening is required. Before reopening, fully vaccinated teachers and staff, adequate COVID-19 processes, and required quarantine facilities on the school grounds should be the standard. The most difficult element of reopening schools, however, is not formulating standard standards, but creating methods that result in rigorous adherence to such safety protocols among pupils. Aside from that, kids with persistent medical issues may require additional attention once they return to school. However, the infrastructure required to ensure that these procedures are done may not be available in all Indian schools. It may be difficult for government schools in remote regions to conform to the established requirements. As a result, the government should avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach and instead develop standard norms based on different contextual factors.
The path ahead
Given the benefit-to-risk ratio based on different research studies that include thorough study of the effect of COVID-19 on children, vaccination effectiveness, and the social and emotional implications of being unable to attend school, it appears that opening schools in stages is a viable choice.
However, when schools reopen across the country, governments should keep a careful eye on the increase in instances and thoroughly monitor the situation. Any indicators of a possible increase in cases should result in the immediate closure of schools until the situation returns to normal. Finally, and most crucially, as we work our way through this crisis, schools across the country should embrace ideas of improvement in a variety of areas, from infrastructure to technology, in order to prepare for the future. The necessity of the hour is for new ways that can enable physical school instruction become safe again.