HYDERABAD: It is usually the children who do not want to go to school, but are forced to by their parents every morning. However, Covid-19 has turned that on its head. A fierce debate has broken out among parents and child right activists over the Centre’s proposal to start schools in a phased manner from July 1. A final decision to ‘get back to school’ will be taken after consultations with all stakeholders.
In light of this, an online petition on change.org, by a group called the ‘Parents Association’ are opposing the government’s decision to reopen schools in July. The petition called ‘No Schools until Zero Covid Case in the State or until Vaccines are out’ is petitioned to Minister of HRD, Government of India and PS to Minister of HRD.
Stating that “It’s like playing with fire”, until the time of print on Friday, the petition had garnered over 5,56,488 signatures. The petition signed ‘Voice of Thousands’ of parents, reads: “Opening of schools in July will be the worst decision by the Government. It’s insane. It’s like playing with fire when we should douse it with full force.
The parents should fight against this stupidity tooth and nail. Not a single child should be sent to the schools for their own safety. The current academic session should continue in e-learning mode. If the schools claim that they are doing a good job via virtual learning then why not continue it for the rest of the academic year.
I am not sure who would send their kids to the school no matter what the school says in terms of measures they want to take like social distancing, sanitiser, etc. They are least bothered for the risk of the kids. (sic)” While many are in favour of this petition, there are others, which include social activists and parents who want schools to reopen, if not immediately, then in a couple of months, and feel it is unwise to wait for zero cases.
“This pandemic is the rarest of the rare and medical organisations have said that children are most vulnerable to this virus. If schools reopen next month, how will they maintain physical distance in the classrooms? How can they take precautions? No parent would want to send their children when there is a threat to their lives. In fact, Balala Hakkula Sangham has filed a petition in High Court of Telangana seeking directions to the Education Department to not conduct SSC exams which are scheduled from June 8, as Coronavirus is spreading and the numbers are rising by the day. Schools should continue with online education, we urge the government to reopen schools in October after the spread is contained.”
— Achyuta Rao, president, Balala Hakkula Sangham
“As a parent, I solemnly stand for the petition because I do not want my daughters to get infected by the Coronavirus. One of my daughters will have to travel to join college, it is dangerous. So, I will be signing the petition to not allow the colleges or schools to reopen until there are zero cases.”
— PK Vinod Kumar, businessman, has two daughters, one pursuing MSc in Bangalore and the other in Class X
“It is fallacious to assign a specific date for the reopening of schools and colleges. The decision should be taken after reviewing the situation in context, and only after zero cases are reported for two continuous weeks. Children are more prone to infections and can spread the contagion more easily. Similarly, the young crowd is the most common asymptotic carrier of the disease. In any school or college, classrooms have a typical strength of 40-60 students. Reopening them while the virus is still active is like inviting disaster.
— Swaralipi Nandi, Assistant Professor, HOD, BA Psychology, English Literature and Journalism at Loyola Academy, has a five-year-old child
“This petition is by an extremely privileged section of the society who can afford to look at alternative methods of educating their children. I am in favour of schools being opened. In Telangana, 48 per cent of children go to government schools, these children have no access to digital learning, as their parents cannot afford it. These students also get mid-day meals. Their parents are single moms, daily wage labourers, housemaids etc, who cannot WFH, so how do they home school and where do they leave their children while they go out to earn a livelihood? In these schools peer-to-peer learning takes place and students confide in their teachers, especially about sexual abuse cases or other problems. This decision to keep schools closed should not be imposed on everyone.”
— Varsha Bhargavi, advisor, Telangana Child Rights Protection Forum
“Regarding the petition, I do not support it. Maybe, don’t open schools now, but by September, they should start. At least, till then there will hopefully be lesser cases. We can’t wait for zero Covid-19 cases to start schools. Campus education is the best education. Children need to mingle with their peers, teachers and others. I admit Coronavirus is dangerous and deadly, but we have to learn to live with it. Online classes could go on, but children should not get used to being at home.”
— Rajesh Mathew Ericattu, business consultant, has two kids, one studying Masters in Bangalore and one hotel management in Kerala
“My opinion is that educational institutions should not reopen for three more months. After that, schools can reopen for Class VIII to XII on alternate days with a maximum of 20 students per class. As a mother, right now, I am more concerned about my childrens’ health, rather than their education. Online classes are only a temporary solution. Children are unable to understand their subjects. Campus learning should start eventually. Waiting until a remedy is found or zero cases are reported might not do us any good. Something has to be worked out before sending children back to schools. My suggestion would also be to reduce the syllabus.”
— Annie Shibu, homemaker, has a son in Class XII and a daughter in Class IX