Back To School?

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THE schools in Kashmir are reopening from March 1 and the government has allowed the school buses to ply. Incharge Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary  said on Tuesday  that the school transport will operate as usual when schools reopen across the Valley.  On its face, it seems a good decision by the government. The number of Covid cases in Kashmir has registered a drastic decline over the past some months. On Wednesday, J&K recorded 58 new positive cases, 11 from Jammu division and 47 from Kashmir division. According to the daily media bulletin on the outbreak, out of 125463 positive cases, 629 are active, 122883 have recovered and 1951 have died, 725 in Jammu division and 1226 in Kashmir division.
This has created a conducive environment for reopening of all kinds of businesses including the schools. The situation has further improved with the arrival on the scene of the vaccines. In the first phase, the government is vaccinating health  and the other frontline workers. With more people receiving the jab, things are likely to get even better. So, the reopening of schools will be the natural outcome of the  turnaround in the situation. More so, when schools have already been closed for over eighteen months. Even before the Covid lockdown closed schools around the world, schools in Kashmir had already been shut for eight months due to the siege that followed revocation of Article 370 in August 2019.
That said, we are not out of the woods yet. The pandemic is very much a reality. In countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK, the pandemic has witnessed a resurgence in recent weeks. This despite the fact that these countries have also been using the vaccine for some time now.
So, while deciding to reopen the schools, government should not lose sight of the state of affairs in other countries. More so, in case of school going children. True, the government will be coming out with Standard Operating Procedures for the schools but the problem will be its implementation. Many schools have a huge number of pupils and it will be difficult to follow the SOPs by them.
If we evaluate the situation objectively, the government’s decision to reopen schools is premature. 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. Considering the pandemic is not going to go away any time soon and we might even see fresh spurt in the cases, the government should wait for a month or so before allowing the schools to reopen.

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