Educational institutes in various parts of the world have been closed for a long time now. Reopening of Schools and universities have become one of the prior concern and dilemma of the government.
But will reopening schools and colleges, at a time when the lethal virus is still dominant; a wise decision? Will children be safe there?
How students are suffering in the lockdown?
The only option every government have, to contain the spread of the virus is a lockdown. In the lockdowns, all educational institutions are closed. Confining millions of students at their homes. But how is this impacting lives of these students?
There is a large population of children especially from the poor section of the society; who depend upon on schools for one meal of the day. According to David Beasley; executive director of Universal Food Programme; currently, about 370 million students are missing their meals. Along with meals, schools provide various other facilities simultaneously; for example, medical facilities which these children are indeed in need of. Even after the reopening of schools reviving these facilities would be a challenge.
One of the most obvious loss is the learning loss. A study from Malawi tells that during long vacations, the literacy loss is somewhere as much gain as USAID literacy programme makes up during an entire school year.
Furthermore, children being at home are at more risk of abuse and violence. During the lockdowns, domestic violence cases have already hiked up. The United Nations Development Program estimates that during the lockdowns, cases of violence increases. The most adverse effect is on the adolescent girls; as was observed during ebola.
Why reopening schools can be a wise decision
With the high transmission rate of COVID19, how could sending children back to school be a wise decision?
A keen observation of the virus’ transmission shows that children are not an easy target for the virus. Children are less vulnerable than older pupil when it comes to get infected.
Study of the household secondary attack rate of COVID19 in China; shows that population of age less than 20 are about quarterly infected by the virus in comparison to the older people. In Japan and Iceland children under the age of 10; exposed to the virus were less likely to be tested positively.
The Lancet Global Health dictates that there is only a 2-5% reduction in transmission of the virus by closing schools. Which is less but yet meaningful. The above information may be the reasons that force governments around the globe to reopen the school.
Countries that have already reopened schools
22 European countries have reopened schools after getting some relaxation in the lockdown. The data shows that by reopening of the schools so far; there have seen no increase in the rate of transmission of the virus. They found no case of infection in any student, parent, or teaching staff.
Denmark became the first Europen country to reopen its schools. On 15 April Denmark reopened their children daycare and grade 1 to 5. In school, desks were placed 6 feet apart from each other. All the precautions were kept to adhere to social distancing.
Norway reopened its kindergarten on 20 April. Norway’s government have strictly asked its schools to divide classrooms in not more than 15 students; students have to wash their desks every day.
Germany reopened its high schools on April 20, but only for senior high school students; and only for the final examination. On 4 May they reopened schools prioritizing graduation students.
But these countries have reopened their schools after abating in the cases. Blazeka Divjak, eduction minister of Croatia; says that the other negative impacts of reopening schools must be looked over. And also added that so far they have not seen any negative impact of reopening the schools.
One size doesn’t fit all, for reopening schools
Reopening educational institutions may not be a very good plan for lower-income countries like India. With such a high population and not enough medical facilities it could be enormously hard for the government of such countries to contain the spread of the virus.
So the answer to the question; ‘is reopening schools a wise decision?’ varies from country to country. For the higher income and less populated country, it may be a good move. Keeping in mind all the precautions it may be a wise decision for them. On the other hand for the countries which are not very well equipped to fight the virus; they should let the educational institutes to remain close.
Precautions and Protection
United Nation Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has presented some points that the reopening educational institutions, children and parents need to keep in mind. UNESCO director-general Audey Azoulay says, once there would be green light then; keeping up with all the security and health measures would surely be a challenge.
The reopening institutes must have access to clean water, proper handwash. Social distancing must be strictly followed. The lost time of students during the lockdowns must be recovered.
Jaime Saavedra, World Bank global director of education; said that once when the schools reopen, the priority would be reintegrating students; taking all precautions of their safety and picking up the learning process, where left.
With the lockdowns, about 500,00 students are at a danger of dropping out. Not going to schools can be riskier than the virus. Children should not be part of the damage done by the virus.