School Reopening: Even as vaccine dry run begins in India, parents vary of children returning to schools

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Even as India gears up for mass vaccinations in the first half of 2021, many parents are still not confident about sending kids to school and prefer to wait and watch.

Getting ready for its mass inoculation drives, India today began a four day dry run for covid-19 vaccine. Apart from this, the country’s infection rate has also steadily dropped and recovery per cent has crossed the 95% mark for most of the states. For many, the life has returned to normal or as normal as can be in a world with COVID-19. And yet, even as people step out, parents are vary of sending the children back to schools in India.

Barring a few states, schools have reopened partially for senior classes. For classes 6 to 8, only a few handful of states have permitted resumption of physical classes. However, almost all the schools remain closed for the primary and nursery classes. Assam would be among-st the first states to resume classes for all students from January 1, 2021. The reason for the most is the unwillingness of the parents to send kids to school, just yet.

“I am in no rush to send my kid to school just yet. He is better safe at home!” shared Deepika, mother to a five year old. Her sentient was almost unanimous. In an informal chat with various parents out for their morning walk, the answer was a resounding no. “My child’s school had sent a form asking if we would be willing to send our kids to school…my daughter is in Class 9 but I said no. It’s still not safe!” shared Mrs. Sumita.

Vaccine not enough to reopen schools!
What is troublesome is the fact that the answer to when it would be safe remains a mystery for many. On the question if they would be willing to send their kids to school after vaccine roll out, the answer continued to be a no or perhaps a may be. Only a few parents agreed to consider sending their kids to school in January or maybe by February, but only when the child and all the members of the family were vaccinated!

“Vaccine roll out would take time and I am not sure if my child would get the vaccine that soon. Based on the news, it may be another three or four months before a size-able population would be vaccinated. I am not sure how safe it would all be,” pointed out Mr. Kumar who is a banker and has been working even through the lock-downs.

“I am scared. It’s not normal and I am under constant threat every time. We take precaution but even at workplace we see people slipping and protocols being ignored. How can we be sure that students would be managed at schools?” he asks. He pointed that only when all are vaccinated can the life start returning to normal.

Surprisingly, many parents admitted to the fact that their kids are out playing with friends and some even admitted to attending coaching. “Online classes are all very well but actual coaching is required. My daughter attends coaching for Maths and Science and she even goes for her dance classes. But I am willing because she goes to a teacher who is within the same residential society. But a school, you never know!” added another parent who refused to give her name.

Experts have expressed concerns over long term impact on the kids’ mental well-being. Numerous reports by UNESCO have also pointed out to higher school dropout rates as well as an increasing hunger & health problem among the younger kids. Even for the affluent sector, experts have pointed out that lack of social interaction may lead to bigger instances of mood swings, lifestyle related problems and even increased anxiety.

For parents, however, the balance tips in favor of health & safety over academic pursuit. Even for parents of students who are in Class 10 or 12, the choice is to avoid school trips. “I would rather my child only faces the examination but continues to study from home,” shared another parent.

There is a marked difference in the opinions of parents from the lower income group. Satto who works as part time maid shared that her daughters have dropped out of school as they can’t afford online classes. As for her son, who is still in Class 5, she hopes schools reopen soon. “We can’t help them with their studies at home,” she points out. Similar sentiments were shared by other parents.

For many, they have already shifted their kids back to villages and are happy to report that schools have started for many.

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