Reopening of schools

A classroom is defined as a confined space where both children and adults get the opportunity of learning. Classrooms can be located from educational institutions like schools and universities to other places where training and education is provided. The importance of classrooms lies in the fact that students can learn without getting interrupted or any distractions. Separate classrooms are provided for separate classes and teachers are provided accordingly. This leads to an organized system without getting overlapped.Classroom is the means of learning in a systematic way with proper guidance. Classrooms are not all about bookish knowledge. A classroom is where the beautiful relationship of a teacher and a student gradually grows up. The interactions, group discussions, doing extra curricular activities leads to a social bonding that cannot be compared to any other relations. The students are equally benefited. They learn how to make friends, how to socialise, how to bond with others and how to work together as a team.However, standing in the year 2020, the concept of a classroom or a school is very different from how we had known it for the past years. As we all know, the pandemic known as Covid-19 or corona-virus has taken over the world and literally made our lives stagnant. All educational institutions, schools, colleges and universities are closed to maintain social distance in order to minimize the spread of infections. All exams are either postponed or canceled. Online schooling has been started and every student is advised to attend classes and tuitions through the online platforms. But it is not possible for everyone to attend online classes. India has a population of above 130 crores, out of which two-third of the population falls under poverty. Having 68.8% of the population Below Poverty Line (BPL), it is not possible for everyone to afford being online. Most of them do not have smartphones. Kids belonging to the age group of 3-10 yrs cannot attend online classes properly. Their parents have to attend the classes to take down homework or understand the ongoing class. The teachers are becoming the victims as well. Online classes are restraining them to have a proper interaction with the students. Not many students can attend the classes at once. The classes are often interrupted by poor network connection. Since the lockdown, the children are devoid of any outdoor activity. They have to sit in front of the computer all day, since everything is online. This is affecting the eyesight of the children. At this point returning to school will be difficult, since many students are getting more and more comfortable at home and lethargic day by day, but it is important.

Now, the million-dollar question arises - Is it possible to reopen educational institutions with the promise of keeping children, educators, staff and their families safe from this pandemic? Is it possible to expect social distancing from children? The students are already falling behind and many rely on the mid day meals provided in schools. Parents who are employed and not working from home are facing problems about where to leave their children while at work. Different suggestions and safety precautions are being constantly provided urging the schools to reopen. The data analysis strongly suggests that children are less likely to get infected or die than the adults. But we can’t take any chances. What if they are getting infected, but is asymptomatic? How does the virus affect- is it different for the preschoolers than the high schoolers? What are the chances that the infected asymptomatic students won’t pass the virus to other students and teachers? During the first stage of the outbreak, the priority was to close every institution and maintain stay at home policy. Therefore, there are no findings to suggest the difference of the spreading of virus between school transmission and community transmission. “A lot of the data we are getting from different sources is messy and not necessarily pointing in the same direction,” says Nicholas Davies, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Schools have been reopened in many countries after there was a significant decline in the national rate of infections. However, there is no evidence that can suggest the increasing or decreasing effect of the virus if schools are reopened in countries, like the U.S, where the infection rate is still in the upward direction. In many instances, it can be seen that the outbreak has increased severely after thousands being exposed to the infection at schools, causing them to lockdown again. According to Dr. Sanborn, “The main risks would be that the children will contract Covid 19 more frequently in school and the teachers will be exposed to and could become infected as well. Aside from the risks of infected children potentially becoming very ill, which is fortunately a rare occurrence, there are also the risks to the children’s families if the kids bring the virus home.” Although it seems that the children are less likely to effectively transmit the virus like the adults, the concern of sudden acceleration in rate of infection still remains, especially in areas where the cases are still increasing. According to Murphy, “The risks very much depend on the individual situation for each child, each household and each community. If your child has certain underlying conditions, the risk of contracting Covid 19 after being around lots of other people, including children, is higher.” This also means that if someone at home already has a medical condition, then reopening school means the child could easily contract the virus from school and infect the person, causing a life threatening situation for that person. Therefore, reopening of schools may lead to an increased rate of infection and deaths. It is up-to the school authorities to follow safety precautions and for the parents to foresee the outcome of sending their kids to school. Like the saying goes, ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining.’

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