Covid curbs: Delhi schools group urges immediate resumption of classes
In a letter to the Delhi LG, the National Progressive School Conference (NPSC) said the prolonged closure of schools due to the Covid pandemic has taken a toll on the mental and physical health of children, besides hampering learning
New Delhi: A body representing over 100 private schools in Delhi has written to the lieutenant governor (LG), urging him to immediately reopen schools for students of all grades, and stressed that there could be no justification in keeping schools closed when all other activities have been allowed to resume.
The National Progressive School Conference (NPSC) -- an organisation of 122 private schools in the city -- said the prolonged closure of schools due to the Covid pandemic has taken a toll on the mental and physical health of children, besides hampering learning. NPSC’s letter comes a day after the Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools, another large consortium of private schools in Delhi, wrote to the LG on Sunday and sought a meeting with him to discuss the reopening of schools.
“Unfortunately, Delhi schools have had pandemic driven closures for about a colossal span of two years and this has taken a massive toll on the mental and physical health of children of all age groups. The present scenario is creating huge learning gaps leading to a generational catastrophe which will unfailingly have a long term and deep-rooted repercussion,” the letter signed by NPSC chairperson Sudha Acharya said.
Schools were first shut in March 2020 when a nationwide lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. It reopened for classes 10 and 12 for practical work and board preparation in January 2021 and classes 9 and 11 in February. However, barely two months later, schools were once again asked to shut down on April 9 amid another Covid spike. On September 1, schools reopened for students in classes 9-12 and in-person classes were resumed for students of all grades on November 1.
Subsequently, in a series of closures on account of hazardous pollution levels, schools closed on November 13, reopened on November 29, and were again shut on December 2. The Directorate of Education (DoE) allowed schools to restart in-person classes for classes 6 and above from December 18 after a go-ahead from the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM). But the Directorate of Education (DoE) issued an order on December 28, shutting down schools “till further orders”.
Last week, following a meeting with a delegation of parents seeking urgent reopening of schools, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said that the government would recommend the reopening of schools in the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting. However, the DDMA meeting held last Thursday deferred decision on reopening of schools.
“I agree with their (parents’) demands. We closed schools when it was not safe for children but excessive caution is now harming our children. A generation of children will be left behind if we do not open our schools now,” Sisodia said after meeting the parents. “Why we are the last among major countries to decide on this?” he asked.
In its letter, NPSC said that educators have observed not only lapses in learning, but also changes in behaviour and seen mental health issues among students. Urging the LG to take necessary steps for school reopening, the body said that the learning loss would be irreversible if students were deprived of classroom learning.
“Online mode is leading to undesirable scenarios like increased exposure to violence and undesirable content, cyberbullying, global obesity, social isolation, feeling of uncertainty, aggression, frustration and depression,” NPSC said.
The Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools, in their letter to the LG on Sunday, said: “It is our humble request to you to kindly reopen schools as our students at all levels have been facing major learning losses for around two years now. We assure you of the safe and smooth reopening of schools. Many major metro cities in India and abroad have reopened schools. We believe it is time when Delhi also takes a strong decision to reopen physical learning spaces.”
Officials in the LG office said that all “pros and cons are taken into account” by DDMA before deciding on the easing of curbs.
“Decisions to impose, revoke or relax restrictions are taken by DDMA which comprises the LG, CM, Dy CM and other ministers, apart from experts and the chief secretary. Such decisions take into account all variables of specific as well as larger public interest and are based on advice of the experts in DDMA. The decision to continue with restrictions is taken by DDMA keeping all the pros and cons of such a decision in mind. All future decisions will accordingly be taken by DDMA on the advice of the experts after taking into consideration all relevant aspects including the compliance of Covid appropriate protocol, and overall well being of the people of Delhi,” the officials said in a written response.
On Monday, Delhi reported 2,779 fresh Covid cases as the positivity rate stood at 6.2%. Also the total number of patients (including suspected patients) admitted in hospitals was just 1,518 -- less than 10% of the available capacity.
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, said that the continued closure of schools in the capital was inexplicable.
Kishore said that it was necessary for the government to reopen schools for all children, and added that it should not be linked to vaccination. “One is unable to understand why schools in Delhi are not being reopened despite several other states resuming physical classes. Vaccination should not be cited as a reason for the delayed reopening of schools. Moreover, there is no vaccine for children below the age of 15. Schools should be reopened for children in all grades for their overall growth and development,” said Kishore.