Re-opening of schools
The UT administration has finally decided to re-open the schools in Kashmir on 1st of March, 2021. The continuous closure of schools has not only impacted the schooling of the children but also heightened the anxiety of the parents who remain unsure of the future of their wards. While elsewhere, the schools were closed in March 2020 following the pandemic, in Kashmir almost all educational institutions, technically, are locked since August 05, 2019 when Government of India decided to revoke the special status of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though the government and private schools introduced the virtual class concept but it goes without saying that only a little percentage of students, particularly those hailing from rural Kashmir, could benefit from this initiative. In absence of 4 G internet services, (which remained shut till recently) even those, having access to smart phones, couldn’t get benefitted properly given the lousy network. In this backdrop, the decision regarding the re-opening of schools is a welcome one as school is the place where students should be. The children can’t be kept out of their class rooms forever. Schooling is not all about learning the prescribed syllabus, it is about the overall intellectual, emotional, physical, psychological and social development of the child. The virtual classroom may help the students to pass the examinations but it can’t, in anyway, help the related developments.
It goes without saying that following the Unlock, the students are almost living a normal life sans schooling. They are attending family gatherings, they accompany their parents on shopping sprees, they indulge in sports activities with their friends and they even attend Darsgahs to seek religious knowledge. So why should they not attend schools? Yes they can subject if the authorities revisit the whole schooling concept with some innovative and creative thinking.
Now that schools are going to reopen after a long gap of 19 months students, parents, teachers – all are thrilled but apprehensive too. Thrill is that students and teachers will be where they should have been. And the apprehension is that are the educational institutions comfortably equipped to maintain Covid-19 SOPs. No one can dispute the apprehensions of parents regarding the safety of their children during spread of pandemic but at the same time if authorities develop some innovative measures, these apprehensions could be taken care of. The administration need to ensure that Covid-19 SOPs are followed in the schools, classrooms are clean having ample ventilation, washrooms are clean and there are all arrangements in place for frequent hand washing of students besides masks and sentizers. What if the Lt Governor administration follows odd-even policy vis-à-vis opening of schools? Let the schools be asked to go for odd-even schooling so that only half of the students attend classes on a particular day. That would ensure proper physical distancing and at the same time help students get the feel of normality.