LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2021 | Volume
: 11 | Issue : 5 | Page : 253--254
Why schools should reopen?
Student, Springdales School, New Delhi, India
Class 11th, Springdales School, Pusa Road, New Delhi
|How to cite this article:|
Gogia A. Why schools should reopen?.Curr Med Res Pract 2021;11:253-254
|How to cite this URL:|
Gogia A. Why schools should reopen?. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 16 ];11:253-254
Available from: http://www.cmrpjournal.org/text.asp?2021/11/5/253/329710
As India encountered the deadly coronavirus, schools and colleges had to pivot abruptly to remote learning. From studying through PowerPoint presentations to online examinations, the last 18 months have focused on embracing technology to conquer the world of online learning.
The development of our new 'COVID-stricken' reality was accompanied by a growing sense of fear and an epidemic of misinformation. The utmost priority was ensuring the safety of our future generations. Schools and colleges, alike, were compelled to shut their doors and students had to harden their hearts in order to adjust to this changed paradigm. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, haven't we all reached a stage where we can no longer adhere to this 'new normal' regime and are yearning to return to our former way of life?
Sudden school closures across the length and breadth of our nation led to innumerable adverse effects. This resulted in children and youth missing out on social interaction, essential for their development. Lack of physical activity during this time has amplified the number of cases of obesity and mental health ailments in children. Nearly 70% of children, mostly from rural areas, urban slums and other low-income disadvantaged groups, have faced learning as well as nutritional loss since they no longer have access to mid-day meals which provide a healthy and nutritious diet.
Quoting a personal experience – as a student of standard 11, I understand the pressures of successfully passing board examinations and preparing for college entrance tests and hence feel that the last 2 years of my schooling are more valuable than all others. These are the years that equip us with the necessary tools to take on the real world. Hence, staying at home does not really prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead. Primary school students have also missed out on loads of learning opportunities, and unfortunately, this can never be compensated for.
Despite this harsh reality, full reopening of schools continues to be a distant dream.
The situation today is drastically different from what we first encountered. Look around and observe – are we still locked into the confines of our homes in order to stay out of the COVID firing zone? Do we still see shops and marketplaces of our neighbourhood with their doors sealed and owners afar? Are the streets still quiet during day as they are at night, with no people or vehicles in view? The answer is a resounding NO! The present-day scenario does not showcase a 'COVID-free' reality, yet it depicts a society that is more reasonable and informed in its fight against the pandemic. If the government has permitted offices and shops to open, then why is there still a restriction on education?
In order to stay protected, we have embraced the long list of safety measures and precautions. The greatest scientific minds of this generation have achieved a significant breakthrough by successfully developing highly effective vaccines, production capacity has been ramped up by the vaccine makers and the government is consistently making efforts to ensure full immunisation at a rapid pace. Compare this situation to the one in November–December 2019 – don't we see a massive shift in our level of awareness and self-protection? For a minute, think and see from a child's perspective – don't kids see their parents going off to work, wearing a mask when in public, sanitising their hands and following the required social distancing norms? The logical question is – why can't children be trusted to do the same? Sooner rather than later, life has to come back to normal for children as well and this will only be possible when they return to offline school.
There is still a large section of people who are of the opinion that vaccinating children is the most important pre-requisite to re-opening schools, for some it is non-negotiable. However, according to the data available, children belong to a segment that is at a low risk of COVID-19 transmission and in the worst-case scenario will get only a mild infection, not requiring hospitalisation.
The medical fraternity is working towards developing vaccines specifically for children. However, the success of this project and the efficacy of these vaccines will require volunteers, testing and might encounter production hurdles. These kid-specific vaccines are on the anvil but will not magically manifest in the near future. Let us take all of these factors into consideration, but not let them be a detriment to the reopening of our educational institutions.
To state some facts – the Union Government recently announced that more than half of India's adult population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 16% have received both and the cumulative number of doses administered in the country has crossed 67 crores. If we put a face to these statistics, they include our parents, grandparents, family members and teachers. Logically thinking – if children are surrounded by vaccinated people, both at home and school, they are at a very low risk of getting the infection.
I recently had the opportunity to visit my school for offline classes. The feeling that comes with walking through those school gates, striding through the silent corridors and sitting in classrooms – is truly exhilarating. One does not realise how much one has missed the place that they call their 'second home', until they are there again.
Wiping out this infectious disease is not a simple task. Yet, simply hoping for it vanish mysteriously is not a wise thing to do. The world and our nation have made significant strides towards gradual re-opening in all spheres. In the US, the CDC recently issued new guidelines for schools to reopen, giving them a strategic plan to bring the nation's 55 million public school students back to classrooms without creating COVID-19 outbreaks. Universal mask-wearing and physical distancing were the key mitigation strategies recommended. Maybe we should take a 'page out of their book' and get on with the process of re-opening our schools. Parents, students, teachers and doctors along with the Union Government and all other stakeholders must arrive at a common consensus and work hand-in-hand to ensure that the long-shut school gates are finally unlocked by designing and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs). If SOPs are put in place and diligently followed, teachers and school staff vaccinated, all social distancing norms adhered to, robust protocols developed to handle COVID positive cases and efficient contact tracing, then re-opening schools no longer remains an 'all-risky' task. These will minimise the chances of an outbreak and reduce the possibility of transmission among children.
Malcolm X, an erstwhile American minister and human rights activist had once said – 'Education is the passport to the future'. Hence, for the sake of children and the future of this country, let us reopen our schools NOW.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.