Don’t Reopen Schools

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THE J&K administration has decided to reopen schools from September 21 and the attendance of the students will be on a voluntary basis. The onus will be on parents and students whether they want to attend the schools or not. Ironically, the government has decided to reopen schools at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is spreading through J&K like a wild fire and the number of deaths is rising. So, how does government expect there will be no infections at the schools?

True, the government will be coming out with Standard Operating Procedures for the schools, one of which is that only 50 percent staff and the students will be allowed to attend. But how does this matter when say 500 out of a total number of 1000 pupils attend. This is a huge number and the students, given their young age, can’t be expected to seriously follow the SOPs.

Also what about the students whose parents will not send them to schools for the obvious reason?  Won’t they be unfairly deprived of education? The authorities have explained that the reopening of schools won’t affect online classes. But the question is who will give these classes when teachers will get busy at schools? One can infer from the government’s logic that the 50 percent of the teachers who will be at home will deliver online lectures. But will this 50 percent comprise teachers from all subjects? Unlikely.

If we evaluate the situation objectively, the government guidelines for reopening of schools are simplistic. On ground the exercise is not only not going to serve its desired purpose but also disrupt the ongoing online classes and leave a majority of students without education.

Schools have been closed since mid-March when Coronavirus was declared a pandemic around the world. This was barely fifteen days after the schools had reopened following seven month closure in the wake  of the revocation of Article 370 in August last year. This has taken  a massive toll on the education in Kashmir.

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 decision 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 conducive 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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