Unlock 1.0 and the relaxations announced in the national lockdown, and the division of coronavirus pandemic management roles to separate states will change the way we’ve been living for the past few months. The subject of reopening educational institutions has been the topic of discussion among students and adults as it could pose a huge threat to the safety of the children.
The economy, however, needs to be and is being discussed rightfully so, among the ministers. The students had almost come to the end of the academic year, with their exams going on, or were about to start when the nationwide lockdown was announced. But with almost half the year done, this question of how state governments need to proceed with the reopening and working of the educational institutions can no longer be ignored.
In a recent interview, Human Resource and Development Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal announced that schools, colleges, and other educational institutes across India will reopen after August 15. Around 30 core students have been at home for around 3 months, awaiting the reopening. The union minister stated that the schools and colleges would be reopened after August 2020, possibly even after August 15, 2020. Additionally, he said that the educational administrations are trying to declare all the results of examinations that took place in this session, by August 15.
An educationist from the city, Rahimunnisa Begum expressed her concern about the announcement of educational institutions reopening in July. She stated that a lot of schools in the city lacked a basic structure and that without proper guidelines, social distancing and creating safety measures will be a “herculean task”. She also said that even though guidelines are produced, most schools lack the facilities to make it work without crowding and especially the fact that the schools will need to procure things to maintain a safe environment seems very tough.
In her opinion, this academic year should be declared a zero year, as the cases are expected to keep increasing till August. She thinks the schools must first be prepared with all the safety precautions, rather than the classes and the commercial aspects. She adds that the management would have to bear the loss, maybe the teachers won’t get their salaries, and maybe the students would lose their academic zeal, but nothing is more valuable than life.
Rajinichitra, the Academic Director of Pollocks Intelli school, thinks that the schools and colleges will open in stages, and not all at once. “They’ve already given us lots of instructions as to what we need to get ready, and all the norms will be in place.” She adds that all the parents essentially have a choice whether they want to send their kids to school or not. “Schools are not just for academics. Some working parents might think that the environment of a school is safer for the kid than them staying alone at home.” she says, “For every student, getting up in the morning to go to school is their normalcy, and that’s why they’re facing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety right now, because the child doesn’t know how to go about their day.”
Her stand as an educational facilitator is that during these times, no one can say whether something requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, everyone needs to make their own choices. She strongly believes that it’s the school’s responsibility to make sure that the child is safe if the schools do reopen when the case count is still high. “There is no surety of when the vaccine will come, that’s why we must think for ourselves, whether we want to venture out, or wait for something that still isn’t certain. Taking one step at a time and having trust in ourselves and in the organization is really important.”
Overall, the situation seems like July might not be the best time to reopen schools and colleges. With a spike of 10,000+ cases on the daily, and the curve going solely upwards, digitalisation of education seems like the best option, but not everyone has the same amount of privilege.
Inputs from Yukta Baid