The impact of covid-19 has undoubtedly been painful at both the macro and micro-levels. Amongst the worst affected are students. However after a long time, the schools for 10 and 12th standard are reopening in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a good beginning. The in-person teaching 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 colleges in the J&K, what can be learned from the debacles in some countries?
The first lesson is the importance of curbing community transmission. The administration’s move is apt in contemporary times as community spread is minimal. There are fewer cases on average a day and the test positivity rate is far better than the required. The directions of strict adherence to the protocols need to be ensured 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 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.
Also timings and school schedules can be staggered to avoid crowding or mixing. This is what has been ordered for the classes 10 and 12th by the administration. Schools need not be held for the whole day. It would suffice even if classes are held for a few hours covering critical subjects, and on alternate days. While the beginning has been made, to see all students get back to school will require the staff to work harder and the administration to have more detailed plans.