New Delhi: A majority of Indian parents do not want schools to reopen until there are zero Covid cases for at least 21 days, a new survey has found.
According to the survey, published Saturday, 73 per cent of the respondents don’t want schools to reopen unless their states, districts and the country report zero Covid cases for 21 days.
While 16 per cent of the respondents have said schools should be reopened only after there are no new cases in their respective states for 21 days, 37 per cent said schools should open after 21 days of no new cases in their districts and its 20-km radius, and 20 per cent said schools should open only after the country has no new cases for three weeks.
The survey, conducted by LocalCircles — a poling platform on issues of governance, public and consumer interest — received more than 18,000 responses from across 220 districts of the country.
As many as 13 per cent of the respondents said the decision to reopen schools should be taken only after a Covid vaccine is out. This apart, 11 per cent said schools should resume according to what the respective state governments decide.
According to ‘Unlock 1.0’ guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, schools, which have been shut for over two months now, will be resumed after consultations with the state governments in the second phase of the unlocking.
Both government as well as private schools in the country have been shut since the lockdown came into place on 25 March.
Concerns over schools maintaining social distancing
Since the first week of April, many schools have employed online modes of teaching — using social media and video calls as a substitute for classrooms.
“According to many parents, efforts should be made by Central, state and district administrations to find ways to enable learning for children in rural India via internet, television and radio channels,” the survey said.
Parents are also worried about children failing to maintain social distancing once the schools reopen.
When respondents were asked if they think their child’s school can operate with social distancing norms in place, 38 per cent said ‘not at all’, whereas another 38 per cent said it would be ‘very difficult’, and 10 per cent said it would be ‘somewhat difficult’.
Only 2 per cent said it can be done ‘very easily’, while 10 per cent said the schools ‘should be able to’ manage social distancing.
“This means that 76 per cent of parents feel it is unfeasible or very difficult for their child’s school to operate with social distancing and only about 12 per cent feel it could be done,” the survey said.
‘Extremely careful’ planning needed to reopen schools
The Haryana government has already announced that schools will reopen in July — but will function in shifts.
Parents feel the government will need to be “extremely careful” in reopening schools, the survey said.
“The reopening of schools in India will need to be extremely carefully planned to minimise risk to the children, as well as to ensure that children do not end up spreading Covid-19 to senior citizens or members of the family with co-morbidities,” it added.
It also said the government must try and enable online education infrastructure in all schools.
“In cases where online education is not feasible, education must be delivered through television and radio with separate channels for each class,” the survey said.
It added such measures will help in the long term to improve the access and quality of school education.