Reopening Schools

THE Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday allowed re-opening of higher educational institutions and schools for students of classes 10 and 12 with certain restrictions. The classes would be permitted with in-person attendance not exceeding 50 per cent of capacity on a given day. Schools will have to obtain consent from the parents of all students who are willing to attend school. In addition, the schools have to thoroughly sanitise their premises, do proper screening regarding vaccination on the school gate.

The order makes it clear that if any student, teacher or other school staff shows symptoms of cough, cold, or fever, they will not be allowed to enter the school. The head of the school has to ensure that the guidelines related to social distancing and Covid protocols are strictly followed.

In April, several schools across the Valley had witnessed cases of infection prompting the government to shut down all educational institutions. While taking steps to reopen schools for higher classes, the government has stayed short of doing the same for lower classes. And rightly so. 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 younger 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 the 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.

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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