Thursday, Jan 20, 2022 08:15 [IST]
Last Update: Thursday, Jan 20, 2022 02:41 [IST]
Despite an increase in the number of Omicron cases in India, many noted scientists are of the view that schools should be reopened for the junior classes and remain open and running for senior classes. They believe that Omicron is causing very mild symptoms. Children have a robust immune system and with proper exercise and physical activity, their immune system will become much more robust. They will not catch an infection that easily, and even if they do, it will not cause any harm as their immune system is already very strong, Prof RM. Pitchappan, a noted immunologist and presently an honorary visiting professor of Biology in Madurai Kamaraj University has said.
While many parents are still highly apprehensive in sending their kids to school, there are a growing number of parents who are in conformity with these scientists and they believe that it’s time science and available evidence should take over the emotional feelings. Now there is also a growing number of scientists who believe that there is no justification now for keeping schools closed in view of the pandemic and even if there are new waves, closing schools should be the last resort. World Bank's Global Education Director Jaime Saavedra is one of them. Saavedra, whose team has been tracking the impact of Covid-19 on the education sector, says there is no evidence that reopening schools has caused a surge in coronavirus cases and that schools are not a 'safe place'. He also asserted that it does not make sense from a public-policy perspective to wait till children are vaccinated as there is 'no science' behind it. According to various simulations by the World Bank, health risks for children if schools are opened are low and the cost of the closure is extremely high.
The impact of school closures due to the pandemic in India is more severe than previously thought and the learning poverty is likely to increase much more than anticipated. Learning poverty means being unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10. The learning poverty in India is expected to increase from 55 per cent to 70 per cent due to learning loss and more out-of-school children. Learning adjusted years of schooling are estimated to fall to almost one full year of schooling, while the average annual earnings might shrink in a pessimistic scenario by nine per cent per student in future.
In countries like India where the inequalities in education were already prevalent before the pandemic and the learning poverty levels were already gigantic, there is a lot at stake. Nearly two years later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school. The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families, and the world's economies.
It’s a question of priorities. It’s clear that India does not see education as essential. Authorities have prioritised everything else -elections, festivals, economic activities- over education. In many parts of the world, schools have remained open for large parts of the pandemic. India now ranks second behind Uganda in longest school closures - trailing by only one week. India is the exception, not the norm.