The Coronavirus pandemic has been spreading around the globe for over eight months now. About four months ago, most countries had imposed strict lockdowns that closed businesses and restricted the movement of individuals.
Weeks later, many governments launched projects to bring back the citizens that were stranded in foreign countries. As this activity came to an end, the world started feeling the heat of putting an abrupt halt on economic activities.
As a result, despite the virus not showing any signs of slowing down, many governments have started considering reopening their schools.
The undertaking is not a new one. Many countries have reportedly opened their schools in specific areas that have been relatively less affected by the spread of the virus, albeit with strict restrictions in place.
Different countries and schools have employed a number of innovative solutions in their bid to make the learning environment safe for the children.
Schools in Denmark have abandoned their original timetables for ‘enclaves’ of learning where 10-12 students are taught by a single teacher for the entirety of the school day.
Similarly, schools in Taiwan have established processes that require families to report any contact with a foreign national before sending their ward to the school. Moreover, schools have also made using facemasks an absolute necessity. The government is also helping its citizens by providing school teachers with 14 masks every two weeks and the children with 10 masks every two weeks.
Schools also conduct temperature checks of everyone that boards a school bus or enters a building.
Speaking of testing, many schools in Shanghai have reportedly started guarding their premises with thermal scanners. In fact, schools in Wuhan are reportedly regularly conducting COVID-19 tests of students. In northern Germany, a school has even enabled students to conduct self-examinations every couple of weeks.
While some of these strategies employed by the schools have worked well, the opening of schools remains a touchy matter in many countries and has polarised all parties affected by the decision.
Countries like Finland and Denmark made the decision to open their schools when they concluded that the “children’s right to education outweighed the health risk of going back to school.”
However, even as there is emerging evidence that children only play a small role in the spread of Coronavirus, the apprehensions remain around the safety of the children.
While UNESCO and WHO have also issued guidelines on when and how to reopen schools, the question remains if reopening schools in worst-hit countries like the USA and India is a good idea.
While many may think that remote learning can replace the role that schools play in a child’s life, the case is very different. In many parts of the world, schools are more than just a place for learning. In many areas schools are also a source of nutrition, protection, emotional support, and other similar and necessary basic human needs.
Studies have revealed, if the schools are not opened soon enough, the Coronavirus pandemic will result in a wider gap in the education of children born in families with different levels of income. The gap, which is already significant between high income and low-income countries, will also start becoming apparent in the low income and high-income communities within countries.
The results of such a gap will start becoming apparent in just a few years and are also expected to contribute to the wealth gap.
Despite all these considerations, the question remains- when schools were closed when there were only a few hundred detected cases of coronavirus, is it a good idea to reopen schools when there are more than 200,000 new cases being reported every day?