THE emergence of new variants of coronavirus and the spike in cases in several states of India has posed a new challenge for the reopening of schools and other educational institutes. One question which is lingering on everyone’s mind is that should schools be reopened. There are compelling reasons to argue that physical classroom learning should be resumed. The closure of schools for more than a year now has meant that many students had to give up on their education. While schools and colleges conducted online classes but online learning could not be accessed by all. Online learning is a mirage for millions of children in a country like India, how can those children who barely afford to purchase books and stationary attend online classes. This digital divide has caused frustration among students who had to miss out on a year of learning for no fault of their own. There have been several cases of student suicides as well. The exclusion that online learning creates underscores the need to resume physical classes. But despite the dire need to reopen schools and colleges, it is prudent not to rush into reopening schools and colleges. The pandemic is far from over yet and taking such a hasty step could only prolong it and make reopening more difficult. The development of vaccines has been a beacon of hope but it is important to remember that vaccines do not signify the end of the pandemic, people who are vaccinated can still be infected with the virus, so it’s too soon to let down our guards and throw caution to the wind. Since we are in it for a long time the government should ensure that online education is accessible to all, for that it should increase its funding for education, the government should provide laptops and internet facilities to students so that they can attend online classes. Most schools in our country do not have the infrastructure to practice social distancing and follow all guidelines and any laxity in implementing the SOP’s can lead to a surge of cases and could prove disastrous, therefore reopening educational institutes is not an option. There have been concerns that long hours of sitting in front of the screen cause headaches, sore eyes, and blurred vision, these issues should be urgently addressed. The government should come out with new guidelines regarding E-learning, there should be limited screen exposure and adequate breaks in between classes to ensure student’s well-being. Many studies have revealed that there is an uptick in mental health issues among students during the pandemic period, the school and educational institutes should make sure they provide counseling sessions to students via chat and phone calls. The government should collaborate with the schools and educational institutes and make online learning more inclusive and student-friendly. Online learning cannot compensate for classroom learning and a complete shift to E-learning will hamper a Childs holistic development but prevailing circumstances demand that schools should remain closed for a little longer.
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