Thorough implementation of standard operating procedures could help schools keep open for long
The Indian Government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan launched in the early 2000s had a popular campaign tune and video — School chale hum. It showed primary students from Kashmir to Kanyakumari rushing towards their schools in the first flush of morning. It showed their enthusiasm to learn and meet their friends at school. The campaign tune was discontinued long ago; however, the enthusiasm managed to live on. It lived on until the schools were physically closed due to the pandemic last year. And now that the Delhi Government is planning to reopen them on September 1, we might now need School chale hum 2.0 or something more potent. We certainly cannot expect the students to be the same after a hiatus of nearly a year and half. They now have mixed feelings about going to school, many are willing while a lot many are reluctant. Many are enveloped in their comfort zones and are too lazy to pack their bags for school. However, amid these arguments, there is a genuine concern, the risk factor of infections as the third wave lurks. The parents are hesitant of sending their children to schools who, at this moment, are unarmoured soldiers going out on the field after a horrible intermission. While the Government has allowed Bharat Biotech to conduct vaccine trials on children, the rollout may still take months.
The students have significantly compromised their studies and school life and hence it was of utmost importance to figure out a way to open schools, at least in the COVID-free regions. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority, therefore, has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed by students, teachers and staff after the schools resume on Wednesday. All educational institutions would operate at 50 per cent capacity and must have mandatory quarantine centres. The reduced attendance capacity and staggered lunch breaks (in open spaces) are aimed at ensuring social distancing and minimising large assemblies. The SOPs look good on paper and its thorough implementation could actually minimise the risk factor. However, students are required to comply with the protocols and the school staff need to monitor students for any symptom in order for the schools to remain open. Also, since attendance has not been made compulsory and online classes will still be available, it would be worth seeing how the students react to it.