15 months of school and college shut down, and no signs of reopening yet.
By all means, it is a reasonable long duration of “no schooling,” and the ills are far many than one could even think of. Kids are missing their school events, the birthday parties, the annual days, and whatnot! Teachers have either become jobless and unemployable for a decent job or continuously survive with a never-ending apprehension of insecurity.
During the pandemic period, I have counseled hundreds of students and parents and found that both of them are now irritated and disinterested in technology-based education. The forced social isolation is so suffocating. During one counseling session, a parent recently said this: “There is neither a friend nor a playground for my son. I am forced to allow him to go back to the screen for entertainment.” It is high time that we work out a shift, for students, from social networks to social learnings on the playground.
The study from home, online teaching-learning is restricted to only those who have access to the internet and smartphone. A large majority of our students in the rural regions are still away from access to technology. I have read reports which indicate a nutritional impact on kids due to school closure. Especially government school students from last-mile villages have been hit the hardest: the mid-day meals were the sole source of food for these students.
The uncertainty of school reopening is digging further with the expectation of yet another Covid-19 attack soon. More so because virologists expect this wave to hit children the most. But the fact to be considered is that the anticipated third wave may not be the end of this pandemic. There could be many more waves coming after.
The moral of the corona story is that we have to learn to live with it. And hence, we must find ways to make our schools start soon. I understand that the reopening of schools is a complex decision. Nevertheless, a school must now reopen considering all safety precautions and covid protocols.
Here are a few suggestions to mitigate the risk and reopen the school. These ideas may be deliberated by the policymakers. Useful and implementable ones could be woven as a standard operating procedure for schools functioning amidst covid!
- Schools may be asked to adopt staggered timing; this may lead to reduced schooling time for students.
- Fifty percent attendance on any day – meaning every student gets to go to school for, say, 3 days in a week.
- Schools may be allowed to restart in a phased manner. It may begin with senior secondary students, and over weeks, the junior ones may be allowed in stages.
- Online teaching must not stop completely. Initially, the learning must happen through both online as well as offline modes.
- Schools may be made the Vaccination center for students and staff.
- Thermal screening and oxygen level checks to be made mandatory at the school entrance.
- Close contact sports like kho kho, volleyball, etc. may not be allowed, but individual sports like running, cycling could be played.
- Usually, the various school activities require students to be segregated into three or four different clubs/groups. Maybe, in place of ‘batches’ or ‘flags,’ different colored or design ‘face masks’ could be used to distinguish one from the other. Thus adding more functionality to the mask!
- During morning assembly, the school administration could play safety Jingles to alert and educate students on COVID protocols.
- Banners and posters to be pasted all around the school campus to ensure that the kids are extra aware all the time.
- Schools to be asked to tie up with dedicated hospitals with well-equipped ICUs and also ‘call a doctor’ services.
The idea is to start somewhere, in which so ever manner, but the school corridors must now see those young footsteps. Definitely, schools and colleges must be reopened considering children’s physiological, psychological, and mental well-being. I would strongly recommend a Covid protocol training to all school teachers before the reopening of schools.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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