Fearing long-term learning losses and impact on emotional, and social wellbeing of students, academicians across India are demanding for reopening of schools. Students too are eager to rejoin classes.
Riyaan Upadhyaya, a class 10 student at DPS-RNE Ghaziabad told news18.com, “It is a long time since I met my classmates and teachers. I am longing to meet them and play with them.”
Peer learning, however, is not the only thing kids miss while studying at home. “The learning gap that we face in certain subjects which has practical applications, would finally be addressed. We would need handholding by teachers till we get back to our old normal days,” said Upadhyaya who will be appearing for board exams this year based on a new pattern.
Schools across some states including Delhi, Punjab, Maharashtra are reopening amid strict COVID-19 protocol, the younger kids will have to wait even longer.
“We have lost precious time for especially the young ones for their social-emotional development. Nobody could be blamed for this. But now I feel, some decisions should be made, keeping in mind the long term implications on children’s mental health from school being shut. As of the current data, the youngest children are least affected from Covid and with vaccinations increasing its pace, its time schools should start opening in a phased manner starting with the youngest lot,” Anirudh Khaitan, Treasurer, FICCI ARISE; Vice Chairman, Khaitan Public School.
Arnavaz Aga, founder trustee – Teach For India believes that roepening schools is just the first step. “We need to realize that restarting in-person learning in all likelihood is our only chance at undoing the effects of 16 months of school closures. In India, while the effects of the pandemic on the educational sector have been severe, especially for municipal and under-resourced schools, we must also acknowledge that our system was failing the majority of our children even before the pandemic. Reopening schools is an opportunity to think about what we would like to fix, what we would like to re-imagine and rework, and in doing so, we must listen to the voices of our children and work with them as partners to make this a reality.”
While social media campaigns demand vaccination before reopening schools. Experts believe waiting till the vaccine will be a wait too long. “We don’t think we should wait till a vaccine for children is available. As the vaccination roll-out for adults is progressing well, the environment for children has been made safer,” said Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil, president, Ajeenkya DY Patil University
Dr. Prabhat Maheshwari, Chief – Neonatal and Paediatric Critical Care, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram agress, “This is a universal infection but predominantly a disease in adults. Children who did get the virus got it from the adults in the home. Now that the second wave has subsided, adults are going back to work, but children aren’t being allowed to go to school. The Government should plan specific guidelines for Covid-19 such as securing proper spacing, training teachers, vaccinating them, and providing ventilation in the classroom before reopening schools in the country.
Anshu Mittal, Principal, MRG School, Rohini, says, “Besides academic loss, the learners have suffered at socio, emotional levels too. We are eagerly waiting for our bright gems to join the school in real-time. The challenge will be to ensure student families are vaccinated.”
Priyankee Guliani, Yoga instructor and mother of two said school closure has “already caused massive harm to their education, especially for primary school students who were just beginning their learning journey and are now attending online classes instead. The only point here is, if other countries can re-open schools, then why not India. If we are opening malls and bars, why not schools?”