oppn parties Should India Reopen Educational Institutions Now?

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  • India conducts a record 6.4 lakh coronavirus tests in a single day on Friday, 31st August
  • Fresh Covid cases top 57000 in India on Friday. More than 11 lakh cases reported in July
  • The US says that China's incursions in several countries were to see the world's reaction
  • The scheme calling for local manufacturing of mobile phones receives applications from Apple vendors like Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron, along with Samsung and some Indian players
  • The Enforcement Directorate has started an investigation into money laundering in the Sushant Singh Rajput case after reports of missing funds from his accounts and the FIR in Patna
  • 38 persons were killed after consuming spurious liquor in Punjab's Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts
  • Mehbooba Mufti to spend three more months in detention as the J&K administration extends its order under the Public Safety Act
  • The J&K administration has released Sajad Lone, the chairman of J&K People's Conference after about a year in detention
  • The defence ministry has written to the CBFC to say that web series on the army must seek approval without knowing that the CBFC has no mandate to regulate such content
  • Google and Facebook will now have to pay to carry news from mainstream media in Australia, the first country to enact such a legislation
  • Centre says herd immunity cannot be a strategic option for a country with a huge population density like India
  • Sushant Singh Rajput's father and the Bihar government move the SC in order to prevent his ex-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty from getting the case transferred from Patna to Mumbai
  • ED seeks a copy of the FIR from Bihar police as rumours float about a Rs 15-crore illegal transaction in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case
  • Several Western Naval Command officers, including a captain, booked by the CBI in a Rs 7-crore fraud case
  • Hardik Shah, a 2010-batch IAS officer, is to be the next private secretary to the Prime Minister
Home Minister Amit Shah tests Covid+, admitted to hospital. He had attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday
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Should India Reopen Educational Institutions Now?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-22 09:00:08

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.

A couple of days back, the Centre has asked the states to reply, after taking feedback from parents and other stakeholders, about when they think that schools should be reopened. All schools, colleges and training and coaching institutes across India have been closed since the middle of March due to the pandemic. The government took a conscious decision not to reopen educational facilities even when the unlocking started happening in May. For, there are several extremely risky factors involved in permitting the same despite the fact that the learning process is being derailed and students are losing valuable time in the academic calendar and are getting increasingly cranky by staying cooped up at home.

Any educational institution has an assemblage of people - students, teachers, support staff and suppliers - who come from long distances, either within the city or from the suburbs, often using multiple modes of transport. While some of them commute by private vehicles, a majority either avails public transport or the transport provided by schools. Since public transport is not fully operational in most Indian cities and suburban trains and the Metro have not been made operational as yet, it will be very stressful for parents to send their wards to schools. Unless a decision is first taken on starting suburban train and Metro services, schools should not be reopened. The question of schools maintaining the necessary infrastructure to screen such a large number of people on a daily basis must also be looked into.

Then there is the question of overcrowding. Most schools in India - even some of the elite ones - have cramped classrooms where 40 to 60 students are made to sit three to a bench. It will be extremely difficult to maintain physical distancing norms. The way out would be to have a two day week for each student - allowing only 33.33 percent to attend class any day - with schools opening 6 days a week. But that would mean that teachers would have to repeat the same lesson to a different set of students throughout the week. That would make their job boring and make them lose interest. It would also mean that there is no way the entire learning process for any standard would be completed within the academic year. If that be the case, then why reopen schools now with all the attendant risks? Why not think of alternate ways to assess and promote the children to the next standard?

It is true that the underprivileged children are losing out on mid-day meals and for most others, either lack of, or uncertainty of, seamless and fast internet connectivity makes online study a tiresome job. Then, reducing the syllabus in a selective way shows that the government is pushing through a harmful agenda. The government must recognize that troubled times call for innovative solutions. It must study the experience of other countries like South Korea and Japan, to name just two, before taking any decision on reopening schools. The considerations of health, safety, nutrition and psychology, though extremely important, need to be balanced with the question of having to provide education to come up with a viable solution. Reopening educational institutions without having proper checks and balances in place would be a sure recipe for disaster and might usher in community transmission in India earlier than otherwise expected. More importantly, children will be the ones who will suffer the most.