In March 2020, schools across the country were shut and classes shifted online owing to the nationwide lockdown. A few months later, as the curve started flattening, states such as Punjab and Haryana started mulling over the reopening of schools in a graded manner while adhering to proper COVID-19 guidelines. However, they were compelled to circle back to online classes as the deadly COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the country.
Now, as citizens are getting vaccinated and a faint sense of normalcy seems to gradually restore in the country, some states such as Maharashtra, Assam, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have started calling students back to school. While most states have initiated their first phase by only calling senior students to attend physically; experts, on the other hand, have advised that students in the junior classes should be called first.
Parents and teachers, too, are divided over the decision with some fervently opposing it and others supporting it only on the condition that schools follow proper safety protocol.
Those in favour of the decision are speaking on behalf of students who haven’t been able to attend online classes due to lack of technological devices and internet connectivity. According to the Hindustan Times, “A UNICEF report estimated that in our country, only one in four children has access to digital devices and internet connectivity”. Moreover, in a survey conducted by a community engagement platform named Local Circles, “almost 80% of parents said they are unhappy with online education. Their main concern is learning loss.”
In the last week of July, the Delhi government sought suggestions from parents and teachers about reopening schools, NDTV reported. The government received 35,000 responses via email, out of which 12,000 suggested that the “schools should reopen with strict COVID-19 protocols in place”.
Besides the limited access to digital devices, poor internet connectivity, one of the major concerns raised by experts is the toll that online education and lockdown has taken on the mental well-being of students and how prolonged confinement in houses has strained the relationship between children and their parents.
According to a parliamentary panel report, “The closure of schools for over a year has had a deep impact on the wellbeing of students, especially their mental health. The hazards of not opening schools are too serious to be ignored. The confinement of young children within the four walls of the house, being unable to attend school, has altered the relationship between the parent and the children adversely”.
“The closure of schools has impacted the social fabric of the family in a negative manner leading to early/child marriage and increased involvement of children in household chores,” the report further added.
Moreover, as mentioned in the report by Hindustan Times, several parents consider online classes “ineffective” and claim that online classes have not only exacerbated the learning curve but have also adversely affected the attention span of the child.
“Not going to school means a huge psychological setback for my child. Moreover, I find online classes absolutely ineffective. Kids have the scope of being inattentive to the lectures or skipping them altogether. I see my child playing video games while the classes are on. Despite these challenges, I would want the schools to reopen only after kids are vaccinated. Post immunisation, the resumption of physical classes can happen in a graded manner, maybe twice a week with very few students and reduced number of classes,” said Monalisa Rakshit, mother of Class 3 student who studies at Sri Sri Academy, Kolkata.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty