Current Affairs

Is It Safe To Reopen Schools?

In the wake of the pandemic, is it wise to reopen schools? Here’s what the data says.

AHSAN RAZA KHAN

Ever since the rise of the coronavirus, the world has found itself in a previously unfathomable situation. But as the days have progressed, the thirst for normalcy has grown exponentially. the desire to go back to our prior lives has raised several key arguments that were neglected in the earlier days of the pandemic.

One of them is the question of sending the children back to school. We have seen several arguments from both sides. However, a large part of the conversation has been subjective: Whether it is right to re-open the schools or not. Many surveys and researches have been conducted and every new research paints a different picture.

We can debate all the subjectivity and all the moralities of the matter but the question remains: “Is it currently safe to reopen schools?”

Situation Around The World

Germany was one of the first countries to reopen schools after they tackled their first wave. Children were sent back into their schools from the 3rd of August and authorities were set on alert in order to keep a track of the situation. One key thing that was being monitored was the creation of a hot spot in any of the academic buildings. But even after continuous classes for over 2 weeks, no hot spots or outbreaks were recorded in any of the schools. However, there has been a certain increase in the daily cases of COVID-19 infections since reopening schools. A direct correlation among those two observations has still not been established. Regardless, from the data, it can be said that reopening schools did not have any serious effect on the overall condition of Germany.

The Indian Dilemma

India has a very different socio-economic condition with respect to any other country in the world. The challenge is not just academic or safety, but also the structure of the local community itself. The day-to-day struggle is more about sustenance than safety in India. And to add to that, schooling is a major source for a large population of children in order to receive that sustenance. This is one of the major factors that poses a strong argument towards opening schools. There is also the dilemma of whether students can receive education while remaining in the safety of their homes, and whether the infrastructure supports it.

The Need for Reopening Schools

Schools are an important factor of a child’s life and hence play a key role in development of the future of a country. The situations have caused widespread unrest in nearly every sector and schools were not immune to it. 

Thus, this is as important a time as any to have an academic structure supporting our society that not only provides education to the young but also gives the country a chance to hope for a better future. There is an argument regarding homeschooling through online education but according to UNICEF’s data , India lacks the most essential tool for that, good internet connection.

Two of the major hurdles in the path to reopen schools is the maintainability of the situation and whether our institutions can manage the responsibility of protecting millions of lives. The challenges schools face are:

  1. Social Distancing 
  2. Cleanliness / Hygiene 

Is it possible to cope with these and manage the situation accordingly?

What’s the risk?

When it comes to severity and impact of the virus itself at the children on a purely biological level, things are quite reassuring. According to the paper published in Minerva Pediatrica, only around 0.5% of the total COVID-19 cases detected in India are among children below age 14. Out of that, only 1% of the deaths are children below age 15.

How clean are our schools?

According to a survey conducted by UNICEF, only 54.4% of Indian schools had basic hygiene services, which is a necessity to even consider letting students go to school.

How is the Internet in India?

According to another recent survey conducted by UNICEF, only 15.3% of Indian households have an internet connection strong enough to maintain a live session with their teachers and peers. The net population of India consists of 26.62% children below the age of 14. That is more than a quarter of the 1.4 billion living in this country.That makes a huge number of households with children. But the internet connectivity data shows that only 15.3% of them have a stable and strong internet connection.This causes a huge imbalance for opportunity of education among those who have good connectivity and those who don’t.

Our Suggestion

There is no denying the fact that a school is a temple for a child to learn and grow both physically and mentally. It provides our younglings a chance to achieve the dreams and desires they have in life; an opportunity for a better future for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, their country, and their society. But we also cannot neglect the fact that there are serious health risks in the process of reopening educational institutions, which can be as minor as fever and as major as a life! The answer to the question depends upon the parents and institutions themselves. If they want to open schools, if they want a structure of society to return back to its pre-lockdown state, we need to take some strict measures in order to ensure the safety of our youth. They literally are the future of our country and no amount of incompetence can be tolerated when it comes to their safety.

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are merely an exercise in data journalism and may reveal information that is otherwise not highlighted in the mainstream media.

Situation Around The World

Germany’s COVID cases spiked after reopening schools. However, a correlation has not been established.

Schools in Scotland have been open for over a week now and more will follow in the areas of Ireland and England in the next month.

As can be seen from the graph, cases have pretty much plateaued in the UK and there hasn’t been any drastic change in the last week, ever since the opening of schools.