Nobody is going to forget the coronavirus pandemic since it was a catalyst of change nobody ever imagined. Schools have been shut for more than 17 months and education has taken on a different shape altogether. The regular morning hustle of reluctantly waking up, having a glass of milk before leaving for school, playing before morning assemblies and during lunch breaks are all a thing of the past now. Today, children have not physically met their classmates for more than a year, and there is no certainty as to when such conditions will be viable again.
Schools Offer More Than Just Education
Apart from studies, there are several other intangible services that schools offer to their students. Therefore, considering the threat that everyone is facing, the pressure under which the education system is thriving must be reduced. There is no clarity as to when young children will be able to return to school. Millions have already completed their schooling virtually and are staring into the eyes of uncertainty for further education and career prospects. However, the increasing mutations and the expectancy of the arrival of the third wave does not give a green signal.
Children have already missed out on the peer learning experience of their school life in the one-and-a-half year. Young children tend to learn more from their friends than they do from their family and teachers. Discussions, deliberations and debates amongst children lead to an analytical grasp of issues that they would not have had in the past year due to isolation. Apart from the classroom, various others areas in the school premises teach children a lot. For instance, quotes on the walls teach moral values, science labs, and music rooms offer them the space to try practical equipment and build their individuality. Maximum learning for a growing child takes place outside the pages of textbooks. The practical learning aspect is considered the third angle in a comprehensive learning curriculum of the child.
One thing the pandemic has effectively taught is that learning does not stop at any point. What seems like a challenge, in the beginning, could be redesigned in the form of an opportunity. Education was imparted through online means during the pandemic, and the trend is not to go soon. The teachers also faced specific problems while familiarising themselves with technology while providing quality education to their students. Despite all possible efforts, there are vital points that one cannot ignore. Full-day classes have increased the screentime for students exponentially. This can have a lasting impact on their eyes, and straining the eyes would reduce a child's concentration. The online learning process is stressful and cannot be compared to a face-to-face learning experience.
Several students have unfavourable conditions at home, and their only outlet was in the schools. Therefore, stable mental health and a safe space to share their emotions can enable children to develop sensitive personalities. This is all the more important if a child has special needs and suffers from a genetic disorder. In a survey done by YoungMinds, 83 per cent of youngsters said that pandemic has made things worse for them.
Reduced Relevance Of Examinations
Classes 10 and 12 are considered to be turning points in school life. However, due to the pandemic, the relevance of these examinations has dramatically reduced. Education boards across the country have opted to evaluate students based on their annual performance because physical examinations are challenging to plan. Another alternative education systems are opting for is a delay in conducting the exams. This too has a lasting impact on a child's further prospects.
Minors are the only age group in our country that is not eligible for vaccination. And during such times, parents' dilemma whether to let their children go to school or not is also valid. The Hindustan Times quoted a survey by a community engagement platform named Local Circles, which mentioned that almost 80 per cent of parents said they were unhappy with online education. They believe that learning cannot be complete with virtual means. While parents want physical classes to start, they are hesitant to send their children back to school. Another argument that several experts give against the shutting down of schools is that if restaurants and malls can be safe spaces to take children, why are educational institutes tied with handcuffs.
In any case, returning to school would not be the same experience again shortly. Some schools might reopen for selected days in a week for some time before they plan on calling the entire lot in. The dynamic nature of the situation has forced the schools to adapt to any challenge that comes their way. Nonetheless, schools must plan and decide how they would keep their teachers and students safe. Additional measures must be well in place to ensure safety to ensure that students, teachers and other staff are safe when they return home and communities are confident of sending their students back to school.
Practical Measures For Reopening Schools
School reopening road maps must align with the country's overall response to COVID. Some of the practical measures that the schools must take while considering reopening are differentiating meal timings in schools, moving classes to large spaces or open grounds and either reducing the class size or asking the students to come in specific slots. Water and hygiene would be critical factors in controlling the spread. The teachers and other staff must be creative to improve hygiene by emphasising washing hands, maintaining a safe respiratory etiquette, maintaining social distancing and repetitive cleaning and untouched food preparation services.
Young children adapt to the circumstances they live in. Therefore, initially, it might be a struggle for the child to adjust to the seemingly regular school routine. However, a graded reopening will help the students, teachers and parents to press their reset buttons. The school infrastructure will also better take hold once activity begins after a gap of months together. Everyone has reached a saturation point, and it's high time that the schools reopened.