Sandeep Sahu

The Odisha government’s decision to reopen offline teaching for all classes from kindergarten (KG) upwards from February 14 (from Feb 7 for Classes VIII and above), announced on Thursday, should be welcomed by everyone. For one thing, keeping children away from school at a time when fresh daily Covid cases have been falling drastically over the last few days simply does not make sense – especially since most, if not all, health experts have repeatedly given the go-ahead for offline classes to resume. For another, the experience of the last two years has left little room for doubt that nearly two-thirds of students in the state have missed out on the online classes – such as they were – due to issues like lack of smart phones and internet connectivity, especially in remote areas.

In any case, mental health experts have repeatedly harped on the immense harm that nearly two years of being away from school has had on the mental well being of children. School, as we all know, is not just a place to learn textbook lessons. It is also a place that imparts life lessons to the children and prepares them for the life ahead by stressing the importance of physical activity and inculcating the values of fellow feeling and camaraderie in them. The role that school plays in the development of a well-rounded personality can hardly be over-emphasized. Online classes can never really be a substitute for regular, physical classes.

Here are a few posers for those who still have reservations about sending their children to school. Are their children any safer at home? Have they never ventured out of the confines of home in the last two years? Even if they have stayed at home all through, have their parents and other family members also stayed put and never ventured out once in the last two years? If they have gone out, isn’t there a possibility that they would get infected and – in turn – infect children at home? Even if all family members have stayed home all through, has no one visited them in these two years? 

As we know, all it takes is just one exposure to the dreaded virus for someone to get infected. A friend of mine contracted Covid-19 though he was confined to bed for months after suffering a fracture in the leg. The virus, in all probability, came via one of those who visited him during indisposition. And once one person in the family is infected, there is every likelihood of others getting infected too despite all precautions. In any case, children have greater immunity than elders, according to experts.

Besides, we commit the mistake of assuming that children would flout Covid appropriate behavior. In my locality, I see properly masked children riding their tiny bicycles every evening even as elders go about without masks or leave their masks dangling from their chins. Given the right kind of tips and counselling – both at home and in school – they are more likely to follow the guidelines than elders.

If parents and guardians still have reservations about sending their children to school, they have the option of availing the benefits of online classes which, as the government notification makes clear, would continue even after physical classes resume. The notification also gives a third option – a mix of offline and online classes – should the parents so desire. If some people still have reservations even after all this, they are unfounded and not based on logic and reasoning.   

It’s a win-win situation for all!   

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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