Delhi: Child rights body pushes for in-person classes for all
Ahead of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting scheduled to take place after festive season to discuss phase-wise reopening of schools for junior classes, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Monday asked Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal to allow in-person classes for students from nursery to Class 8 at least twice a week.
Last month, Baijal, who is the chairperson of DDMA, had said they will consider allowing schools in the city to resume in-person classes for students of classes 6 to 8 after the festive season.
In a letter sent to Baijal on Friday, DCPCR chairperson Anurag Kundu said the authorities must reopen schools as it was causing learning loss among children; impacting their social, physical, and mental health; and adversely affecting the economy. Pointed out that nearly all sectors had opened up, including offices, cinema halls, malls, markets, and parks, Kundu, in his letter, advocated for reopening of classes nursery to 8 for at least twice a week in staggered form.
“Clearly children not attending schools cannot keep them safe since the adults are moving about and returning home. As it is, children are visible everywhere in public places. There appears to be little evidence about how school closures can benefit the children when all the sectors are open,” Kundu said in his letter, adding that experts have said “it was highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children.”
The commission highlighted the learning loss faced by children due to the prolonged closure of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.“Seventeen percent more Class 1 students could not read letters in 2020-21 compared to 2019-20 according to the Annual Status of Education report 2021 by Pratham Education Foundation… 80% of children aged 14-18 years report lower learning levels compared to when schools were open… A nation where children cannot read is doomed to fail, setting its children up for dropouts,” said the letter.
The commission also highlighted that online classes, as an alternative to in-person sessions, was severely limiting. DCPCR also quoted a UNICEF study which claimed that nearly one-third parents reported deterioration of the social and emotional health of their children.
“The World Bank states that this generation of students stand to lose an estimated 10 trillion dollars in earnings or almost 10% of the global GDP. This will drive the country further back in its pursuit of achieving reduction in poverty levels,” said the letter, adding that several states such as Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan had opened its schools.
Kundu also argued for the reopening of anganwadis, claiming that if affected routine immunisation of children, posed a risk of increasing malnutrition in the city, and hampered the early childhood education to aid the cognitive development of children.
“Anganwadis to open at least once a week for all children in staggered form and random testing of students/children and school/anganwadi staff to ensure the infection spread, if any, is immediately identified and contained,” said Kundu in his letter to Baijal.
Spokespersons from the LG office did not comment on the matter.