- GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
India’s schoolchildren need their childhood back
Context: Indian schools have been closed for 16 months and counting apart from sporadically opening for the higher-grade students.
Impact of School Closures.
- In-person school education teaches children to share, wait for their turn, negotiate, and compromise; by depriving them of social contact, children are deprived of essential learning and development.
- For children from economically weak backgrounds, schools are a key source of nutrition (mid-day meals scheme). Closure of schools means adverse impact on the access to nutrition.
- For some, schools serve as safe spaces from the chaos of their homes. Without schools they are more vulnerable to abuse from others & getting trapped into anti-social activities
- For many children, particularly those who do not have educated parents or cannot afford home tutors, the denial of education results in learning losses and, ultimately, denial of a chance to earn a livelihood.
- Continuation of school closure is not required because Sero surveillance among children (<18 years) shows that more than 50% of children from both urban and rural areas had antibodies. This means they were already infected and developed antibodies.
It is possible to think about starting schools in areas where the community level of infection is low. A one-size-fits-all approach across India will not work.
As immediate measures, governments should:
- Vaccinate: Call for lists of school staff and procure full vaccination for them.
- Reduce vaccine gap: Scientists should confirm if the gap between doses can be made shorter to school staff akin to health-care workers
- Awareness Campaign: Engage relevant experts to undertake public campaigns to make school staff and parents aware of the low risk of transmission in schools and low severity in children
- Issue guidance for staggered re-opening of primary schools — e.g., 50% attendance or smaller groups of students on alternate days or weeks;
- Hybrid System: Upgrade school infrastructure to facilitate a hybrid system of learning where parents who do not wish to send their children to school have the choice to continue with online learning.
- Formulate and issue guidance on COVID-19 protocols to be adopted by schools — distancing to the extent possible, outdoor classes weather-permitting, masking, hand hygiene, and proper ventilation
- Greater investment in paediatric facilities, and implementation of systems to track local level of infections
Director of Education for UNICEF, said, “There are many countries in which parents can go out and have a nice steak dinner, but their seven-year-old is not going to school. “We need to come together to fix that problem and give our young children their childhood back.
Connecting the dots: