School Reopening Can Wait

THE Jammu and Kashmir administration announced that all educational institutions will remain closed for “in-person and on-campus teaching” to the students till July 31 in view of the prevailing Covid -19 situation.

Closing the schools is a good decision. In April, several schools across the Valley had witnessed cases of infection prompting the government to shut down all educational institutions.

At this time, reopening the schools runs the grave risk of exposing 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 completely reigned in before children could go back to school. Considering the pandemic is not going to go away any time soon and we might even see a fresh spurt in the cases, the government should wait for more time before allowing the schools to reopen.

But as things stand, it is unlikely that the schools could be reopened this year. More so, with many experts predicting the third wave and which incidentally is expected to infect children. The  government’s priority therefore should be to expedite vaccination. It is only when there is 100 percent vaccination and the pandemic has effectively been controlled, can it be possible to reopen schools. The fact is while a large section of population has so far been vaccinated, it would be some time before the target of complete inoculation is achieved. This would also involve making the vaccination mandatory for all. This is necessary to combat the vaccine hesitancy among a small section of population.

It is true that schools had been closed since mid-March last year 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 2019. This had already taken a massive toll on education in Kashmir. More so, in Kashmir where the schools have now been closed for over two years. Education has been the worst victim of the lingering political turmoil and now that of the pandemic. A virulent third wave of the Covid-19 has made education a tricky trade-off between re-opening schools and the health of children. But given the existing situation, it is important that the schools remain closed for now.

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