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Centre charts out plan to re-open schools amid Omicron spread

Centre charts out plan to re-open schools amid Omicron spread

The development comes few days after the global agency UNICEF urged countries not to delay opening of schools with children’s mental health and learning abilities being severely impacted.

The revised guidelines from the education ministry state that the States and UT governments may decide at their level whether their schools are required to take the consent of the parents of the students for attending the physical classes. The revised guidelines from the education ministry state that the States and UT governments may decide at their level whether their schools are required to take the consent of the parents of the students for attending the physical classes.

Perturbed over loss of learning owing to closure of schools, the central government has charted out a plan to re-open the primary and secondary educational institutions across India.

The central government on Thursday had said that the districts having less than five percent COVID positivity rate can move in the direction of reopening schools, however it asked the states to decide on the same considering all aspects of COVID spread. This development comes a few days after the global agency UNICEF urged countries not to delay opening of schools with children’s mental health and learning abilities being severely impacted.

The revised guidelines from the education ministry state that the States and UT governments may decide at their level whether their schools are required to take the consent of the parents of the students for attending the physical classes.

The guidelines state that in place of the phrase ‘social distancing’ the phrase, namely, ‘physical distancing’ may be used. Gathering/congregations should be in accordance with the SOPs of the State/UT. Group activities in games, sports, music, dance or other performing art classes may be allowed subject to SOP of the State/UT concerned, the guidelines state.

Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure physical distancing in the school premises. Necessary precautions may be taken in respect of the children with comorbidities. School drivers/ conductors residing in containment zones shall not be allowed to board the vehicles, the revised guidelines stated.

The guidelines also recommended preparing bridge courses and implementing them in classrooms.

“Once school reopens, the grade-related syllabus should be undertaken only after the bridge course is completed, so that students can adjust to the changed school environment and do not feel the stress or being left out, especially students who did not have access to alternate means of education,” the guidelines said.

Earlier in 2020 and 2021, Ministry of Education (MoE) had issued guidelines for safe reopening. Now considering the extensive vaccination coverage of school staff and teachers, the ministry has also revised the guidelines. “Schools are fully open in 11 States/UTs, partially open in 16 States/UTs, and closed in 9 States/UTs. An average of 95 per cent of teaching and non-teaching staff have been vaccinated in all the States,” said Sweety Changsan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Education.

Schools were closed during lockdown in the first surge of COVID-19. UNCIEF last week urged governments to do everything in their power to keep it from further disrupting children’s education as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues its spread all over the world.

“Keep schools open. An estimated 616 million children are currently affected by full or partial school closures. We know that mitigation measures help keep schools open. We also know that investments in digital connectivity can help us make sure that no child is left behind. We need bold action to enable every child to return to school. This includes providing comprehensive support with a particular focus on marginalized children in each community, such as catch-up classes, mental health and nutrition support, protection and other key services,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

UNICEF said that making access to in-person schooling contingent on COVID-19 vaccination risks denying children access to education and increasing inequalities. Consistent with WHO recommendations, UNICEF recommended keeping schools open and ensuring that countries’ COVID-19 control strategies facilitate children’s participation in education and other aspects of social life, even without vaccinating children and adolescents.

“In crisis conditions there are always difficult decisions that force difficult trade-offs, and we recognize the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating for school systems worldwide. But the stakes are too high,” said Fore.
According to the Indian government data, the states have vaccinated at least 95 per cent of the teaching and non-teaching staff. In fact, some states have also achieved 100 per cent vaccination coverage for this section.

“There is a contraction in the spread of COVID-19 infection and the situation is improving. There are over 268 districts having case positivity below 5 per cent. These districts can move in the direction of school reopening along with other economic activities,” V K Paul, member (health) NITI Aayog said, adding that there has been a significant learning loss due to closure of educational institutions and schools should be open at the earliest opportunity but also appropriate time.

At least 1,49,394 new Coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours. India’s active caseload is presently at 14,35,569. Active cases constitute 3.42 per cent of the country's total positive cases, the Union Health Ministry data shows. Meanwhile, India’s cumulative COVID-19 vaccination coverage exceeded 168.47 crores on Friday. More than 55 lakh vaccine doses were also administered in the last 24 hours, the health ministry data showed.

Published on: Feb 04, 2022, 6:02 PM IST
Posted by: Vivek Dubey, Feb 04, 2022, 5:56 PM IST