Losses about prolonged closure of schools as well as fears regarding opening them in contemporary times are legitimate. Indubitably remote education is a poor substitute for real classrooms, and children with learning barriers such as poverty and special education needs are at an even bigger disadvantage.
There are instances of many children left behind, without computer access, internet connectivity, TV sets and even electricity. The non-restoration of the high-speed internet facility in all but two districts also remains unfavorable to the students of Kashmir.
While covid-19 pandemic badly hit the education sector globally, in Kashmir scenario it lengthened the closure of schools to over a year now. The educational institutions were closed on account of unprecedented lockdown in connection with the 5 August 2019 decisions. And when they reopened for a fortnight in March this year, the covid-19 lockdown forced their closure again. While there are plans with the government to reopen the schools for higher classes, the moot question remains as to whether the situation in terms of covid-19 is conducive for the return of the students to the schools. The statistics about the number of virus cases, reported by the government, do not look all that favorable as tally stands at 58244 while deaths attributed to it have surged to 934. The case of kids cannot be either compared to shopkeepers or businessman given the different level of the sense in adhering to the protocols such as hygiene and social distancing in outside home environments.
While pandemic shows no signs of relenting, reopening schools anytime soon would be imperiling.
In fact, the return to school rests on the government’s ability to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. While the virus is spreading rapidly, schools are to remain on virtual mode for now. The rise in case counts across J&K rules out, even best-laid plans, for classroom education. The government would be better advised to address the issue of reopening schools on epidemiological evidence. The administration needs to carry out an extensive assessment of the learning loss and well-thought-out plans to bridge the learning gap, and schemes to ensure there are no dropouts.
While the policymakers are already aware of severe impacts to the education process, and the losses to students, the alternative, of remote and online learning opportunities, should be ensured until the time direct classes are possible. The government needs to take the measure of the best available science, implement the necessary measures and optimize efforts to reduce the covid-19 numbers which would help in resuming the schools safely.