The covid-19 barely spared any sphere of life. It badly impacted businesses and hit health facilities to near breaking points. However education remained the biggest victim, more so in Kashmir where schools are shut for more than two years now. However as the covid-19 numbers are declining compared to peak in April and May this year, the government has moved to open colleges and universities for in-person teaching in Jammu and Kashmir with a rider. While all schools including coaching centers shall continue to remain closed for onsite/in-person teaching, till further orders, the State Executive Committee (SEC) ordered that the higher educational institutes can be permitted to commence with limited in-person teaching subject to 100% vaccination of staff and students and specific permission of concerned Deputy Commissioners. Such institutions can organize special vaccination camps in consultation with district administration, the SEC headed by Chief Secretary said in the latest announced guidelines.
The reopening of the higher education institutions will come as a relief to students who have missed class environment to study. The online teaching system proved all but inadequate and not enough to replace the in-class atmosphere amid slow internet troubles in J&K.
As and when students return to universities and colleges, there is need for strict adherence to the protocols on the ground without fail. The government must keep available thermal scanners, sanitizers, besides ensuring the wearing of face masks by students and staff. It needs to be ensured without fail as the infections in students can lead to infections among vulnerable people on campus, including faculty members and other staff, and in the wider community.
The concerned should always keep in mind the virus variants. Without ready pharmaceutical remedies, citizens and policymakers have to fall back on the default toolkit of safe behaviour. In Jammu and Kashmir along with other parts of the country, a sizable population seems to have been exposed to the virus, as indicated by seropositivity surveys at several places. But the spate of infections in some parts of the country especially in Kerala and Mumbai recently underscores the value of the precautionary principles. Even with declining infection rates, public activity needs to be guided by caution. Use of face masks and healthy distancing is the need of hour.
Maintaining safety protocols and adopting low-cost non-pharmaceutical interventions such as good classroom ventilation and open-air instruction wherever feasible is also important along with adherence to covid appropriate behavior.