After the lockdown phase, now Unlock India Phase is going on and being discussed widely. The government is very open to suggestion and adopting democratic ways. Human Resource Development Ministry, now renamed as Ministry of Education, has asked the state government and union territory authorities to take the suggestions and feedback from the parents about the opening of school and sending their children to schools.
After the feedback and suggestions, the MHRD will convey its opinion to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). Feedback, suggestion and discussion are very important and very necessary in a democracy. But too much emphasis on feedback, suggestions and discussion spoil the system. This is just the overdose of democracy and human rights.
Authorities can gradually open the school around Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Authorities should keep the size of classes small and ensure social distancing. For example, if there are 60 students in the class and school has five days a week. Then the class can be divided into five parts and every day only 12 students should be called for the classes. The school will be opened and this will also ensure social distancing. With the improvement in the situation, a student can be called twice a week. But for the Nursery and Primary students, there should not be any opening till December.
Online classes are not good for students. Teachers can only finish the syllabus only on paper. There will be no response from the learner. Students can wait for a few more months. Most of the students generally drop for years preparing for IITs, Medical or Civil Services etc. Already in the Unlock-3 guidelines announced on 29 July, MHA has ordered the educational institutions and coaching institutes to remain closed till 31 August 2020. This is a very good decision. Further guidelines are still awaited.
Vibhor Bhardwaj, father of a Prep student laments, “For we parents it’s is a very difficult situation where we are the loser in all the ways. I can’t send my son to school fearing the deadly virus. But at home, I have to pay full fees plus arrange another nurse to sit with my son for homeschooling and online classes as we both are working parents.” Moreover, most of the parents do not have the necessary gadgets nor are our teachers exposed to this type of education. Since, the nation never experienced such a situation in the past, to equip with all the effective and easy methods to address such a situation would be a very tough challenge.
Although teachers and supporting staffs are losing their jobs, it is not advisable to the government to open the schools at least up to 5th standard until the situation becomes normal. Educational institutions should be the last priority to open because all the educational institutions are highly overcrowded due to RTE and almost no detention system. Schemes like Mid Day Meal should be completely scrapped which can spread the virus. Freebies should also be stopped because large numbers of students take admissions only to grab such freebies. This is also very necessary to reduce the number of students. We must protect the health and safety of kids because their immunity is very weak.
There are many unanswered questions and worries for the parents and the authorities. But all are united that schools should not be opened in the midst of the pandemic. Another worry is that still there is no treatment for the virus. Even if distancing is strictly maintained what about travelling, touching books and notebooks, shared study tables and chairs, shared water taps, toilets etc. it is impossible to clean and sensitize everything in the schools. In government schools, there is a tremendous shortage of help-staff. Moreover, children don’t understand the seriousness of the situation, and they may not be regular in washing their hands and maintaining distancing. Education can be delayed but can’t risk life for education. Few months delays or a year’s delay is not a big deal.