New Delhi: Schools in most parts of the country have remained closed for nearly eight months now. While there have been reports of fatigue setting in among students after taking online classes for months, many parents are also unwilling to send their children to schools amid rising cases of Covid-19.
We asked readers: Is it time for kids to slowly return to school or stick to online classes until a Covid-19 vaccine arrives?
‘Children may not be able to maintain social distance’
It is very important to understand the scientific reason behind not opening schools.
Although the young population attending school has one of the lowest case fatality rates, they can be very potent vectors for the disease. They may carry it to the more vulnerable population at home.
Children may not be able to maintain social distance and are certainly not the flag bearers of hygiene. As we approach the second wave, the schools must remain closed. The education being given through online classes is effective. Many of us will wonder if physical presence in school should be made optional. The only institutions not functioning yet are the places of religious worship. It is certainly the time for us to introspect the order of importance and relevance we give to these places in modern times.
— Dr Swanit Deshpande. Twitter: @swanitdeshpande
‘Till a vaccine arrives, online classes are to be focused on’
Online classes have been quite boring and also one of the main reasons behind children’s laziness in this Covid-19 phase. However, thoughts of returning to school and to the normal classroom environment will, again, bring back children and their schedule back to normal but, the fact that scares parents out is that, even after all the safety measures that would be taken care of, there’s a chance of their children contracting Covid-19. For now, till an effective vaccine arrives, online classes and virtual learning are to be focused on and have to be made more interactive, accessible and better in all aspects. So that learning can be made fun and easy to get access to if vaccine takes any longer.
— Poonam Chanchlani, Jaipur. Twitter: @mnameispoona
‘Social distancing would be a hard task in public schools’
Private schools may arrange for sanitisers and social distancing but the real sufferers would be the students of public schools who usually are from marginalised sections. Social distancing and sanitisation would be a hard task. Online classes, if any, in public schools suffer from constraints like device and universal high speed connectivity at both ends. The outcome of online classes is debatable but it definitely fails to deliver the environment of a classroom which includes sitting capacity of child and those six-seven hours of long study. If we decide to send them to schools, there lies a possibility of infection but the children appearing for their boards have to anyway appear for competitive exams. Unfortunately we don’t have enough data regarding Covid-19 infection among students and invigilators post exams. A tough choice to make often involves choosing the one with a lower opportunity cost. The choices here are quality education and safety of the child and her or his family. With the luxury of a good private school one may think to send.
Himanshu Ojha, Gorakhpur. Twitter: @himanshuojha11
‘Schools, colleges should be reopened with safety precautions’
Education is not just about grabbing grades and pocketing degrees. It is all about what an individual gains through interactions with fellow students and educators. This is precisely what students are missing out during the pandemic. In my opinion, schools and colleges should be reopened with strict safety precautions in place. This would help several students on the verge of dropping out of schools (or life) because they are unable to access digital devices for their daily lessons. Live classrooms will open doors to better student-teacher interactions which in turn leads to a better learning environment than a virtual one. A Covid-19 vaccine is several months away and I believe it is unfair to deprive kids their right to experience real school life albeit with the age essentials — sanitisers, masks and physical distancing.
Anagha Rajesh, Ajman, UAE
‘Students can be asked to go to school a couple of days a week’
The fact that Covid-19 exposed us to information that we were earlier unaware of is undebatable. But the divide that it created in education cannot be ignored either. Education is a tool to ease social mobility, not widen the existing disparity. Moreover, the price of the pressure and strain (mental and physical) that the digital education has imposed upon the students is exorbitant. Everybody needed a break, but this has become an overkill. Maybe it is high time we went back to campuses, at least in stages. Students can be asked to go to school a couple of days a week, in groups.
Farah Rafeeq, New Delhi. Twitter: @_farahrafeeq
‘Many children still don’t have access to smart phones’
For vaccine, it can take longer than expected. Its availability and vaccination programme is another uphill long journey. Regarding online classes, a large section of children still doesn’t have the availability of smartphones and it’s very difficult to wholly rely on this method since they’ve never been exposed to such learning before, albeit in a few metropolitan cities. What seems fit is, government should sectionalise areas on the basis of Covid-19 cases and accordingly re-open schools. They can reduce the current strength of classes into sections of half and teach these sections on alternate-day basis so as to minimise crowding. It’s important to take kids from the zones of confinement back to places of best learning that helps in their overall development.
— Dar Altaf, Srinagar. Twitter: @the_dar_altaf
‘Students should start going to school, especially senior ones’
Since time waits for none, so ‘yes’ it’s time for students to return to school, as they have started to reopen. Students should now start going to school, especially the senior ones as they also have to appear for their board examination and they need guidance by their teachers. The students of lower classes may not necessarily opt to go to school and should continue their online classes as they can be guided by their teachers but the senior students also need to perform their practicals and then can opt for online mode of studying.
Shivam Singh, Prayagraj. Twitter: @sayshivamsingh
‘In many parts of the country virtual classes are not feasible’
It’s an appropriate time for the schools to reopen with strict guidelines and all precautions to minimise the risk of Covid-19. There is enough data now to say that the risk to children due to Covid-19 is minimum and although they could spread it to elders at home since the number of infections has reduced, it is a good time to take this step now and assess the situation closely. In many parts of the country virtual classes are not feasible and it’s not advisable that the children lose the full year of schooling. Although this decision should be decentralised and each state should take this call, as we can see the situation is Delhi is very different from that in Telangana.
Vidyuth Chikoti, San Francisco. Twitter: @followvidyuth
‘It would be unwise to keep schools closed any longer’
Lockdown across the globe due to Covid-19 has harmed some sections of society more than others. Students, to be precise, have been the silent sufferers. Prolonged exposure to electronic devices has taken a toll on their eyes as well as mental health. In my opinion, in the absence of a time frame regarding the vaccine, it would be unwise to keep the schools closed any longer. A school doesn’t only stand for knowledge. It stands for human touch, social interaction and development of ethics in pupils. All this has an impact on the overall personality of students. Not only that, the impact on poor students is much more than one can fathom. Digital divide has virtually taken away their right to education given to them by the 93rd Amendment. Power cuts, network issues, lack of devices only add to their agony. But this doesn’t mean re-opening of schools should be without a caveat. Schools must be opened in a phased manner, with higher classes (9th-12th) being called first and then gradually, as the situation eases, the lower ones. Proper and periodic testing of teachers, non-teaching staff and students must be undertaken to limit and timely control the spread of the virus. Social distancing, mandatory use of face masks along with easy availability of hand sanitisers must be the mantra.
Raghav Aggarwal, Hisar. Twitter: @1997_raghav
‘Online classes must continue until country is fully vaccinated’
Online classes have been a big change from the bustle of daily life. Although online classes lack in efficiency and the personal touch that physical classes provide, it doesn’t beat the fact that without a vaccine in place, going back to schools, where even the most stringent rules of social distancing will prove unfruitful, is not a wise choice. Even if the population of a classroom is reduced to half, there is nothing stopping students, especially the younger ones, from going so far as to exchange their masks, like some collectible cards. So, online classes must continue as the prescribed mode of education until the country is fully vaccinated, because the promise of a quality education does not uphold if there is no promise of life.
— Anjitha Puthillam, Navi Mumbai. Twitter: @anniebell_7