The National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE), a forum of experts in the field of education, child rights and medicine have strongly recommended that schools be closed as a last resort. This comes even as the Karnataka government has announced the suspension of in-person classes for all except classes X to XII, medical, nursing and paramedical colleges.
Like most other states in the country witnessing a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases, Karnataka which crossed a 2.5 % positivity rate also declared the closure of educational institutions yet again.
NCEE has however opined that this will spell a disaster for children. Explaining the damaging effects the closure of schools has had on the education system during the previous lockdowns, they said in an official statement, “It is evident that the absence of structured learning opportunities has caused severe academic regression, young children have forgotten habits of learning; basic reading and numeracy skills have been affected, and we are seeing a huge dropout as a result. Online education has not been possible or pedagogically meaningful for most children. It will continue to be a meaningless ‘option’.”
Recapitulating from various scientific studies conducted in the past and guidelines issued by the medical fraternity, NCEE has asked the government to still keep schools open as there is little risk involved. “The evidence suggests children are more commonly asymptomatic or have mild non-specific symptoms, and fatalities are negligible. Scientific studies have shown that in-school transmission of the virus by children or teachers is lower compared to other locations,” they have suggested.
Drawing a comparison between the smaller and larger educational setups with students hailing from a different societal backdrop, they have urged the government to allow decisions to be taken at a regional level, considering the number of cases reported in that particular area.
“Governments are now seeing the wisdom of graded response to pandemic waves, this will mean that initially large schools, schools in urban settings may be asked to operate at 50% capacity ensuring distancing and masking if the positivity rate crosses 5%. If the TPR crosses 10%, medium-sized schools can be asked to operate in shifts/ use staggered timings to ensure distancing/lack of crowding. Schools that are small should not be closed; evidence suggests that students are safer in schools than in the community. If schools are closed, provision for hot cooked meals must be made at the community level as the occasional supply of dry rations has not been adequate to respond to malnutrition, itself an aggravator of poor health.”
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