With the coronavirus pandemic forcing schools to shutdown, scores of students across the nation have been restricted to home since mid-March. Online teaching methods, which have been brought in as the substitute, have not quite proved to be as effective as the traditional ones, owing to several factors such as economic and infrastructural barriers. With several students not having access to computers, the internet, television, or even electricity, questions have been raised on the penetrative capabilities of the online methodologies. Additionally, health experts have suggested that kids are at a greater risk of developing health issues if exposed to digital media or gadgets for a prolonged duration. Keeping the overall development of the students in mind, the Ministry of Human Resource Development recommended that school managements can conduct online classes for a maximum duration of 1.5 hours per day for classes 1-8 and three hours per day for classes 9-12. As the course of the COVID-19 pandemic remains far from predictable, the Central government has been pushed into a dilemma in revising the academic calendar of schools and reopening these educational institutions. With the crisis appearing far from over, the Andhra Pradesh government has shifted the tentative date of reopening schools from 3 August to 5 September. Yo! Vizag interacted with a few parents from the city and here’s what they opined regarding the possible reopening of the schools later this year.
Amitha Tatiya believes that it would be a total disaster if parents allow children to school, given the current scenario. “I really wish that the government and the school authorities in Vizag consider their opinion twice before reopening the schools. Let education be a motto in service and not be for the greed and profits of the individuals,” she says. Pointing out that the government has clearly stated that children should be kept away from crowded places and not venture out in the open unless necessary, Tatiya mentions that it would be a challenge to maintain physical distancing and ensure proper sanitisation in schools, owing to the huge number of students.
Calling for pronounced action in the education sector, Jaya Siva Murty highlights the need for new measures, given that we are combating an unknown devil. “As a parent, I feel that schools should not reopen this year, as theories of a second-wave, and fears of overburdened hospitals are still abound. It’s time to look for new ways to do things; be it, online classes, for limited hours, reduced syllabus, or homeschooling. I feel that this is a unique time that can be spent on teaching children life skills and using home-schooling methodologies instead,” she says.
Shamita, a student of class IX has been at home ever since the lockdown was announced in March. Sharing how she’s coping up with the new normal, her mother, Deepika says, “It was initially stressful at home. Thankfully, Shamita soon adapted to the online way of learning. However, I’m concerned about the consequences of her increased exposure to the screen.”
When asked how willing she is to send her child back to school in case it reopens, Deepika says, “Shamita’s safety and health come first. In such circumstances, I’ll send her back to school only after ensuring that the management adheres to the safety precautions with a minimum number of students per each class. Despite the uncertainty, I’m still hopeful that normalcy will soon be restored”.
While some argue that online education is leading to excessive usage of gadgets by students, there are others who do not completely agree with this. “Being parents, we get the concerns surrounding the educational institutions as well as the well-being of children. But honestly, regardless of the absence of online classes, our children are still using electronics for their own causes,” shares Anita. As the government mulls over reopening schools, Anita adds, “Showing utmost respect to the authorities, we do not support the reopening of schools during this pandemic. In case, if any parent / the institutes are bothered, we suggest in resuming the online classes scheduled with appropriate timings.”
Rupa Potnuru, who is also among the lot of worried parents from Vizag, suggests that reopening of schools is only viable if the classes are conducted with not more than 10% of the total strength. Stating that she isn’t inclined towards sending her kids to school anytime soon, she picks online classes as a more sensible way in the present situation.
While a few have suggested reopening of schools to achieve herd immunity, the likelihood of the same seems bleak given the fears surrounding the virus. A few parents have also urged the authorities not to reopen the schools until a vaccine is made available for COVID-19. Governments and parents continue to seek more practical and safer solutions for maintaining educational continuance in these unprecedented times. Overcoming the challenge revolves around hitting the right balance between safety and future prospects.
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