Online learning is now the new norm, whether it be school or college. Now that the virus is seemingly under control, offices and institutes are starting to open up again and things are slowly getting back to normal.
But what about schools? Are we all prepared to reopen schools and start classroom education again?
The state and central government played a vital role educating students in the rural areas via Durdarshan national television during this pandemic, however, after conducting lessons online for 8 months, schools in the non-containment zones opened up in Maharashtra on Monday (23th). Students from class 9th to 12th are allowed to attend the school under strict social-distancing guidelines. The students were thermally screened before entering the school premise and the seating arrangement was also made in adherence to social-distancing norms, with attendance being non-mandatory. It was also compulsory for the teaching and non-teaching staff to provide a negative test report for the virus before taking the class. With all these safety measurements in place the question still remains — Is it necessary to reopen schools at such a crucial stage of this pandemic?
Due to the lockdown and strict quarantine laws, we have been able to control the virus to some extent and even saw a reduction in cases, however, post this festive season a spike in the cases is being observed. With the winter fast approaching, we are now more vulnerable to COVID-19. We have seen plenty of examples of other countries where schools are opened only to be shut down days later due to mass transmission of COVID-19. In Israel, schools were opened on May 17th and within ten days an outbreak was observed with the highest infected cases observed in students between classes 7th to 9th. The school had to eventually close to prevent further spread of the virus. Although reports suggest that the rate of infection and transmission in children is lower as compared to that of adults and healthy children are largely asymptomatic carriers, it becomes difficult to micromanage the students in a confined classroom mainly when it comes to such a highly transmissible disease like COVID-19. It is also worth noting that in a developing country like ours, children not only depend on schools for education but also for food provided as free school lunches. So it seems inevitable that schools will reopen sooner or later.
So then how can we safely reopen schools?
Well for the time being it appears wise to continue homeschooling via online education. The main reason being that even though healthy children are often asymptomatic, weak and immuno-compromised children and adults still run a high risk of contracting COVID-19. And gathering children in a closed classroom with insufficient ventilation is simply an open invitation to the disease. Our health care system is also fighting a long and unrelenting battle with this virus and by reopening school we will potentially put more lives at risk and increasing the strain on the medical sector.
Thus, even though schools in the containment zones such as Mumbai, Pune, etc. are to remain closed until Dec 31st, we need to practice constant vigilance. Since no definitive date for a vaccine is available yet, we are still very much at war with this awful virus!
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