There have been numerous covid-19 cases involving students or teachers recently. Already, some schools have been forced to close for few days.
Amid the rising uncertainty, there is perhaps no area of life and public policy that more clearly illustrates the double-edged nature of decision-making than education in contemporary pandemic times. The schools in Jammu and Kashmir reopened after two precious years of academic disruptions, one on account of covid-19 last year and other following Article 370 revocations. After the advent of the covid-19 vaccine, there was heightened optimism to end the prolonged disruptions. Schools remaining closed is far from ideal in all situations except of course where there is a threat to life to students and teachers. Time has proved that home schooling is all but a poor substitute for professional teaching among the students. The absence of in-person lessons, in classrooms, has had a very bad impact on various fronts.
Everyone wants young people to be educated and those extremely concerned by the prospect of educational inequalities widening are very much justifiable at their own place.
While announcing to open schools earlier this year, the government had underlined need for strict compliance to the usual mandatory Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for covid -19.
The school managements were expected to ensure strict observance of absolute precautions for the safety of students and teachers.
As regards second wave, some experts believe that children and young adults are at high risk of contracting the infection given the fact they mostly remained uninfected so far. The schools and colleges are functioning which can result in higher risk of transmission in closed settings, the experts say. It is also fact that school outbreaks so far are limited in number and size. So far also, the mitigation measures remained largely effective. At the same time, there exists transmissibility uncertainty. It is therefore important to revisit how schools can be kept open without becoming centres of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
The biggest risk associated with schools lies in transmission of the pathogen from children to parents or grandparents vulnerable to developing severe forms of covid-19. In such a scenario, schools may contribute to community transmission. One cannot also lost sight of the fact that children and adolescents are suffering from the effect of repeated lockdowns and disruptions to schooling. In such a scenario, any decision to keep the schools open or closing them should be based on ground realities and strictly based on expert advice.