Is it Time to Reopen Schools after the COVID-19 Crisis?

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The COVID-19 pandemic had taken the world by storm within a short span of a few months. Though it is still debatable as to whether it was deliberate or a fluke of nature, the fact still stands that the global economy and the society as a whole has been hard struck by the lockdown implemented due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The most severely implicate section of the society is that of the students, irrespective of whether they are pre-schoolers or college students, or urban or rural students.

How has the lockdown affected students?

The flow of studies is hard to create and easy to disrupt. Most of the experts agree that creating a stable progression yields better academic results; this stability has been severely impacted during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Since the lockdown began in the latter half of March, which also coincides with the end of the academic year, most students have yet to receive their report cards and, those that did, have yet to attend their first lesions for the new grade.

The university students have been even harder struck by the lockdown from this viewpoint. Since almost half of the exams have yet to be conducted and, considering that it has already been a few months, a majority of the college-goers will have to prepare for their exams all over again.

The same is true for the aspirants preparing for competitive exams. Since these preparations usually require strategic preparation, generally spanning over more than a year, the strategies of most of the aspirants have become obsolete at worst and lost their efficiency at best.

What is the significance of schools for underprivileged Indian students?

Like those of most other developing countries, Indian schools do much more than educate students. The students from underprivileged family backgrounds, especially in the rural regions, depend on governmental academic establishment for various essentials.

It is normal for underprivileged families to expect their children to start earning to support their families at a young age. Such scenarios of promoting and practising child labour are more widely prevalent in rural areas; however, some instances may also be chanced upon in the urban set-up.

Although assisting one’s family cannot exactly be termed as child labour, when village children assist their families with farming activities when they should be present in a school, studying, it inevitably leads to fewer opportunities for becoming successful in the future.

Besides that, household violence, lack of proper nutrition and being prone to be led astray are some of the many issues faced by underprivileged children. Since their elders generally lack the means to adequately provide for and guide them, they depend on the governmental academic establishments to help them out.

These establishments are responsible for providing education, counselling, nutrition and a sense of security to the children in their care. One good example of this fact is the mid-day meal scheme enacted by the Government of India, under which, all government schools are liable to provide a serving of nutritious meal to their students once a day.

Such schemes not only help the underprivileged children with a better environment to study and develop, but they also encourage families to send their children to school.

How does the lockdown affect the drop-out rate of Indian schools?

Though the lockdown has struck the economy hard, the strongest repercussions of it have been faced by the lower-class families, especially those living in rural areas.

Since the farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to harvest their crops due to the lack of labour resulting from the lockdown, the children of such households are more than likely to be dragged into helping out on the farmlands.

Similar situations are bound to occur in other similar cases as well. For instance, roadside food stall owners, maids, etc. are also quite likely to draw their children into helping out with their work.

Such instances are bound to lead to a drastic increase in the drop-out rate of children from underprivileged family backgrounds; on top of that, this school drop-out rate will only increase and not decrease with any further delays in reopening schools.

Is now the right time to reopen schools?

The COVID-19 pandemic has yet to completely settle down and experts muse that it might take a few years to eradicate the Coronavirus.

And, there should be no need to express the dire straits in which the global economy will end up should the total lockdown persist for any longer.

It is no longer a question of whether it is the right time to remove the lockdown since its further extension will push the economic development back by a few decades at the very least.

Therefore, the question that we need to mull over now is how to effectively unlock the country without causing further increment in the spread of Coronavirus.

The same can be said about the academic front. The longer the students are kept from formal, the higher the regression of their academic progress will be.

The lack of adequate technological infrastructure has proved to be a huge — and, for the time-being, insurmountable — hurdle to the quick transition from traditional to online learning.

This lack of adequate technological infrastructure is a common issue among the developing economies across the globe. Since the widespread transition to online learning is not a feasible option for a developing country like India, the government is left with only one solution.

This solution is to reopen educational establishments and take the necessary precautionary measures to help avoid the spread of the Coronavirus in schools and colleges.

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