Defer Reopening Schools

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The Centre has asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to defer its decisions on reopening of schools. The direction came from Union Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office Dr Jitendra Singh following anger among people over reports that the administration was planning to reopen schools in the union territory from June 15. Though the government has to yet to make a formal announcement on the date of reopening of schools, it had recently called upon schools to ensure safety measures to arrest spread of coronavirus to students and staff. Director (Finance) in the school education department had asked the directors of school education in Kashmir and Jammu to instruct heads of all government schools to provide a pair of reusable masks and a pair of gloves to every student and ensure availability of 1000 ml hand sanitisers and 1200 ml liquid soap at entry point of each government school. The opening of schools has also become a political issue with National Conference’s provincial president Devender Rana asking the UT administration to take a decision regarding reopening after consultation with parents. He has asked the government not to take chances with the health of children and check whether the schools have adequate infrastructure and training to implement Covid 19 precautions.

Schools have been closed since mid-March shortly after Coronavirus was declared a pandemic around the world. The contagion has plunged Kashmir into yet another lockdown, barely a month after the previous lockdown had been eased somewhat. The lingering lockdown, the longest in the world, has taken a massive toll on the education of the children. Schools had opened just for a fortnight when the region ran into Covid-19 lockdown.

Making education further difficult is that the government has eased the earlier sweeping internet clampdown to a grudging access to only a slow-speed 2G internet for the general population. As a result, children in Kashmir can’t even study online or access online coaching or classrooms. The best solution to lack of schooling for the government was to restore 4G internet in the union territory. This would have ensured the easy access to online education to students. Use of communication technology would have thus obviated the need for a hurried reopening of schools. But while the government is refusing to restore the high-speed internet, it is taking steps to reopen schools, a fraught move under the circumstances. More so, when Covid-19 cases are spiking in the union territory. Reopening schools would expose the children to the infection. Schools lack the adequate infrastructure to protect the children. It would also be impossible to make the students follow the safety precautions. This is therefore not the right time to reopen schools. Government should wait for the contagion to be reigned in before children can go back to school.

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