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The Editorial Analysis: The devastating impact of school closure

 

The devastating impact of school closure: Relevance

  • GS 2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

The devastating impact of school closure: Context

  • Omicron, the latest variant of COVID-19, has once again halted the lives of the people. Restrictions like night curfews and border checks were again imposed and people were questioning the steps because of two reasons:
    • Omicron, though more transmissible, is far less severe than Delta. In such a case, questions were raised about the disproportionate response to Omicron.
    • People also pointed that when the restrictions did not restrict an earlier variant, they will not restrict a more transmissible one.

 

The devastating impact of school closure: Key points

  • Before the second COVID-19 wave hit, experts across the board advised that schools should be the last to close and first to open.
  • Government has ignored all this advice and closed schools, thus becoming a few of the countries which has taken this step.
  • Despite the Omicron surge, most other countries have kept schools open, prioritising the well-being of children.

 

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The devastating impact of school closure: Rationale behind the decision

  • The primary reason that was provided for school closure was to protect children.
  • Government was of the view that children were more vulnerable to this transmissible virus, and they should be kept as isolated as possible.

 

The devastating impact of school closure: Criticism

  • Critics pointed out that school closures to protect children is as absurd as banning children from travelling in cars.
  • The scientific evidence for schools as COVID-19 hotspots is very weak. Indeed, studies have shown the opposite.
    • For instance, a study in Spain looked at data from over 1 million children of all ages in schools, and found that the R-value (rate of virus spread) is well less than one for all schoolchildren.
    • Furthermore, the R-value is lower for lower ages, as low as 0.2 for pre-primary children.
  • Critics has said that the practice of shutting Anganwadis and primary schools are unscientific.
  • More se, Sweden never closed its schools for children under 16, and there was no extra risk for teachers compared to other professions.
  • Critics have also raised objections for schools being super-spreaders when every other place, including banks, markets, buses, among others in India is crowded.
  • Violation of children’s rights: Education is a constitutional right. By closing schools for this long and providing a poor substitute with online education, we have violated children’s right.

 

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Consequences of school closure

  • Online education: A detailed survey report from September 2021 shows the extent of the impact of online education. The reading and writing levels of children have declined, with nearly half of them unable to read more than a few words. More than a third of the them were not studying at all.
  • Mental health: Both the US and the UK have regarded mental health of children as a major issue, despite the fact that school closure in these places were for much shorter period than India.
  • Malnutrition: School closure meant that mid-day meals were no longer provided to children. It has led to increase in malnutrition in the hinterlands.
  • Child labour: Due to the extension of school closure, children went back to child labour and decades of progress against the severe malice of child labour has been reversed.

 

The devastating impact of school closure: Way forward

  • Children have needlessly suffered for too long from irrational and disproportional restrictions and school closures.
  • 2022 should be made normal for children in all respects, including a good school life and happy childhood.

 

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