Editorial | Back to School
Re-opening of educational institutions: A welcome move
Back to School | The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s much-awaited decision to throw educational institutions open for in-person teaching is both timely and welcome. It would be after more than two years of frequent disruptions caused by the recurring waves of the Covid19 pandemic that children would be seen returning to their schools from March 1, 2022. It is no less than a moment of great celebration to be able to see children, who have borne the maximum brunt of the pandemic, back to their classrooms and playgrounds. And this moment certainly needs to be cherished for varied reasons.
It needs little reiteration that keeping children away from schools comes at a huge cost that probably no conscious society can afford to pay. It doesn’t have only to do with depriving children of education and practical training, it has also to do with some bigger and more important matter than this: depriving them of socialising with their peers, conversing with them on a daily basis and/or learning from each other in space and setting that they feel belongs solely to them.
When the first wave of the pandemic struck the world, it not only impacted businesses and economies, it also dealt a great blow to the education sector whose impact can be felt for a very long, long time. And India is no exception to this. No doubt efforts were made by the central government as well as the local governments in States and UTs to shift to the online mode of education as early as possible, this transition came with its own sets of problems, especially widening the learning gaps of children and leading to what is now commonly referred to as digital divide. According to a UNICEF study, approximately 1.5 million schools have closed in India affecting nearly 247 million elementary and secondary school children. This is apart from the fact enlisted by the National Sample Survey of 2017 to 2018 which reported that only 23.8% of Indian households had any type of internet access and, as a case of gender disparity, only 16% of women have mobile internet access compared to 36% of their male counterparts.
Now that the decision to throw the doors of educational institutions open for children has finally been taken, there can’t be a better time than this to put our heads together, collectively, to ensure that there’s no more disruption to the students’ teaching and learning. And this not only requires the government of the time to get serious in its approach it also calls for the active involvement of civil society members, parents and non-governmental organisations to make this happen for the welfare and wellbeing of children. The UT administration has already declared that the year 2022 shall be the ‘Year of Academics’ in Jammu and Kashmir and therefore it requires a serious effort by one and all to translate this goal into a reality. School administrators will have to step in with a great sense of great responsibility and accountability to ensure that nothing goes wrong while they bring children to schools from March 1. It would be imperative to follow all necessary guidelines vis-à-vis Covid19 so that no more disruptions are allowed to disrupt the education of children who have been at the receiving end of this grotesque pandemic.
Apart from facilitating children to interact more with their classmates and friends, it would be great to engage them in creative pursuits to help them widen their imagination and understanding from a very young age. Schools don’t have to be merely temples of learning; these have to be the temples where the overall personality development of pupils is taken care of with immense seriousness. Encouraging children to actively take part in sports activities can also go a long way in de-stressing them from the burden of immense stress that they have been facing in closed spaces, away from their schools, for the past two years. Apart from their physical well-being, their mental well-being has to be an area of priority given what they have gone through. Let their return to schools don’t be academically burdensome in any manner, at least for a while.
Let everyone play his role in facilitating the return of children to schools. It is a welcome move. Let’s cherish the moment.