DDMA takes the right call on schools
It is now critical to keep schools open and allow teachers to assess the present learning level of students and commence remedial measures to ensure that children don’t suffer further
On Wednesday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) took a slew of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, after weeks of a small but sustained increase in new infections. It has made masks mandatory for people, asked for random testing in public spaces, and announced a ₹500 fine for violators. However, DDMA has kept schools open with mandatory Covid-19 protocols. In addition, it will release a set of operating procedures for schools for better management and prevention of Covid-19 cases. All schools in Delhi returned to in-person classes from April 1.
The decision to keep schools open is welcome. It takes into account scientific data, which shows that children below 12 (currently not eligible for vaccines) are unlikely to suffer symptomatic infections, and even more unlikely to require hospitalisation, and reports that have said that the sudden and prolonged lockdowns and subsequent closing down of schools (one of the longest in the world) have brought about significant changes in the lives of parents, teachers, and students. School closures have hit unprivileged students harder since many families had no access to mobile phones/computers and the internet. In addition, many families suffered income losses, forcing them to deprioritise personal investments in the education of their wards. Even in a city such as Delhi, the digital divide is so acute that in September 2020, the Delhi High Court directed private and government schools to provide gadgets and internet packages free of cost to poor students for online classes. Despite best efforts, many teachers and school staff also could not help the students much because the teachers themselves had to suddenly adapt to the digital mode without any prior exposure, training, and access to online-specific educational material.
In such a scenario, it was always essential to open schools quickly. Unfortunately, that did not happen. It is now critical to keep schools open and allow teachers to assess the present learning level of students and commence remedial measures to ensure that children don’t suffer further.