Right time to open schools

Showkat Wani
Covid-19 declared as pandemic, put the whole world to a grinding halt. Businesses, aviation, trade, vehicular movement, healthcare, education, rail transport everything stopped and there was no hope or time frame in sight when the normal activities will resume on the planet earth. Economic growth of countries all over the world, suffered downslide and every sector of life was badly hit . Lock down 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 witnessed total lock down of activities, stranded people had to travel hundreds of kilometers back to home, many poor died of hunger and millions of jobs were lost. Thereafter unlock 1.0 started and with each passing day lock down was eased gradually sector wise. Domestic aviation started with few flights and gradually with each passing day the air traffic is increasing. Commercial transport has resumed,markets, shopping malls , restaurants have gradually opened. Government offices , banks have also started functioning.After keenly watching activities and precautions that are being adhered to, one easily understands that there is least adhering to SOP for covid-19. Passengers are being herded like any thing else in commercial vehicles .Marriages and social functions are taking place with precautions only in the name of precautions as people assemble , gather as if the virus has vanished from this planet long before. Traders have started their business activities and seldom any precaution is being taken by either the consumers or the shopkeepers. In rural areas, people are seen in huge gatherings in front of banks for various banking purposes and people behave as if Covid-19 has been a fairy tale. If one visits any bank in rural area, one can easily see that advisories are being thrown to winds and the people jostle and crowd without any fear or apprehension. Religious functions are being carried out normally , markets are abuzz with activities , Private clinics of the doctors have started normal functioning , hospitals can be seen crowded with people, constructions works have started and are going on smoothly , railways have started trains on many routes , meaning every sector , every activity has restored back to normal functioning . It had to be , after all man has to live , has to survive , has to feed himself and his family, cannot desolate or hibernate for long because of pandemic or any threat more than this. For how long will human beings desolate, one month, two months, three months, they had to come out and they have. Virus is in the community, vaccine is far away and it was doomed and destined that only solution was to allow development of herd immunity although that would have been at a cost but there was no solution either.
Now that every activity of life has restarted, it is only education of the younger generation that is once again a casuality. The powers that be, are in no mood to think over opening of schools. They are behaving as least bothered , citing apprehension and worries regarding health of school going children. It is being presumed as if opening of schools will provide breeding ground and will provide momentum to the activities of virus while as other routine activities mentioned above will not. The teaching learning process of students in this part of globe has suffered a lot during last 30 years due to hartals and curfews, studies of students have been badly hit due to floods of 2014 , uncertainty and turmoil of 2016 , post August 5 decision in 2018 , and now in 2019 due to Covid-19. We can award mass promotions to the students to higher classes, we can give relaxation of syllabus but these are cosmetic measures.The time of the students that has been or is being lost ,can never be compensated by these measures. This generation of the students has lost precious and valuable time which they can not make up for. The powers that matter, will have to call it a day and after deliberation with all stake holders devise a plan , a strategy , a mechanism and formulate do’s and don’ts for the teachers and students with a decision to open the schools as early as possible .Teachers in addition to various Covid-19 duties have been teaching through various online modes to the students but I being myself a teacher went for online classes ,got firsthand experience and realized that a good number of students belonging to poor strata have no smart phones in their families , a good number of students have smart phones with their father or elder brother who remain away during day for earning livelihood , and those who attended were not able to hear properly because at 2G speed, audio and video snapping often now and then was making the teaching a mockery of all sorts. After getting dissatisfied and frustrated with myself with the output of the online classes, I switched over to community classes. Online classes cannot be substitute for physical class, a child cannot learn and grasp to the expected level in an online class. Government should open schools now because when other activities of life are being carried out smoothly, why is schooling held as hostage. Schools can be opened with a rider that where ever there is open space available in schools, classes can be taken outside the four walls with proper social distancing. At places where there is no open space available, morning and evening shifts can be taken to ensure social distancing. Teachers being educated lot , have to be trusted for they will adhere to all standard operating procedures(SOP’s) , while teaching the younger generation. The Government , the teachers , the students , the parents all have to take the responsibility and take all measures that are necessary for protecting health of school going children so that schools can be opened and more time of the students is not lost.
(The author is Lecturer Political Science HSS D H Pora Kulgam )