- Schools are closed for more than 15 months due to Corona
- The closure of schools is affecting the health of children along with their education.
- The risk of corona is less in children than in adults, but can they take the risk?
Shilpa Agarwal and Deepa Mani
The decision to open educational institutions in Telangana was taken on July 1 amid the threat of a second wave of coronavirus. However, later Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao deferred this decision. The decision of the Telangana government to open schools was also criticized by many. It is almost 1.5 years since the schools were closed due to the Corona crisis. Some schools were opened in between, but were closed again in view of the second wave of Corona. From teachers to parents, everyone has their own concerns about whether schools should be reopened and it is also valid.
These concerns should be given special attention before the school opens
- Till now not all teachers have been fully vaccinated, many have not been done at all.
- Even the vaccine cannot be given to school going children yet.
- Most of the schools do not have well-ventilated classrooms.
- It is extremely difficult to follow and monitor social distancing norms in schools.
- Children may not get sick with the virus themselves, but they can prove to be powerful carriers of the virus as the virus can be carried with them to their families.
Economic aspects are also important
Unforeseen closure of schools will affect education as well as income and other economic benefits. For example, those in Austria and Germany who suffered educational losses due to World War II also suffered large earnings losses 40 years after the war, accounting for about 0.8% of GDP. Distance learning has done little to mitigate these disadvantages. A study from the Netherlands shows that distance learning caused as much learning loss as 8-10.5 weeks of classroom learning during just an 8-week long lockdown. These findings suggest that we will probably lose at least a full year of school learning. Overall these losses are massive and will continue to grow as our schools remain closed.
Kids and parents are paying a big price
When children go to school, they not only learn from the teacher but interacting with peers helps in the development of their emotional and social skills. The study of the effect of social isolation on students, including anxiety and depression, has started. For parents or working mothers already facing uncertainty in jobs, remote learning adds to the stress.
Poor families are more affected
The cost of distance learning is undoubtedly higher for children from low-income families. According to UNICEF’s Remote Learning Reachability Report, only 24% of Indian households along the rural-urban divide have internet access at home. Therefore, children in homes without internet are at increased risk of developing educational disparities. According to a field study conducted by the Azim Premji University in January 2021, out of 16,000 children (grades 2-6) in more than a thousand government schools in 5 states, 92% have lost at least 1 linguistic ability and 82 % had at least 1% of the mathematical ability they had achieved before the pandemic.
For poor children, health is another issue
School-based meal distribution schemes like mid-day meals have also been hit hard by the pandemic. Many states have seen a significant drop in the months of April and May 2020 as compared to the same time period of 2019. in many states. Food insecurity and the loss of school-based health services potentially create wide health disparities.
Children are less at risk of Kovid
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its most recent guidelines for opening K-12 schools in the US noted that the community attending the school is not the primary driver for transmission. Supporting studies suggest that children are much less likely to be affected by the virus than adults and that even if they do catch it, they still have a lower viral load and less chance of getting sick. is. Serious illness that requires hospitalization is extremely rare in children. Although it is believed that it is more likely to spread to adults through children, this has been seen since the early days of the epidemic.
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if not now then when
What does it take to open a school? It is clear that Corona is not going away yet. The possibility of full vaccination at the universal level is from the middle of 2022 to the end. So do our children deserve to lose another year in their education? So much will be lost and this loss will affect the poorest and most vulnerable population.
(Shilpa Agarwal is an assistant professor of economics and Deepa Mani is a professor of information systems at the Indian School of Business.)