By Riyanka Chowdhury (PG '22) and Siddhi Jojare (PG '22)
Bengaluru: Educational institutions, particularly schools, have remained closed and kept open intermittently in the last year depending on the intensity of the pandemic. The changing pattern of teaching has severely impacted the learning process of young children. The shift from in-person teaching to online methods has gravely affected the less-privileged children in rural India.
The government at the centre and the states are aware of this vital problem and are devising various ways of tackling it, but everything appears to be depending on how the developments with the pandemic situation in the coming days.
If the government decides to open all schools shortly, are parents of young children who are yet to be vaccinated against the virus willing to send them to school for proper offline education?
Ms. Srividya and her daughter Aruna Prakash Iyer
“We will only send our kids to school when there are only very few active cases,” says Srividya Prakash who works for a hospital. “Offline classes are the best way to learn but given the situation, we can’t do much about it,” she adds. A complete change in the teaching method has its trouble. Handling gadgets all the time can make learning a tedious task. “Not all students can cope with the virtual world and learn things online,” said a guardian of a primary school child.
Although education has become a major concern since it shifted online, the topmost priority of most parents is still the health and hygiene of their children. “Even when protocols are being followed, we are witnessing a surge,” says Srinath Gururanjanrao, father of a school-going child. He is firm in his decision to not send his son to school.
Even if schools ensure all the COVID-19 protocols, including social distancing, are being followed, parents are still sceptical about sending their kids to school. “Our decision won’t change even if the school follows all the protocols strictly. We can consider sending our son to school only if the situation gets better,” Mr. Gururanjanrao adds. Many parents feel that strictly following the protocols might not be sufficient to run offline classes while the country is heading towards the peak of the third wave. They say they will consider whether or not to send their wards to school only after the government comes up with a vaccine for all school-going children.
Ms. Nagashree with her children
On the other hand, some parents had a different opinion.
“Children going to school and schools following all the precautions should go hand in hand,” says an owner of a pre-school and mother of two. “If we are comfortable taking our kids to restaurants, to malls and such places, I don’t think we should have a problem sending them to school,” she adds. Even as most parents seem to have decided to keep their children isolated, a few of them are looking forward to sending their children to school if vaccination is guaranteed. “Although education is being hampered to a certain extent, I am more comfortable sending my kids to school only after they are vaccinated”, said Sudha Vitala, another parent of another.
Nagashree, the mother of a grade 5 child, has no problem seeing her children go to school because she thinks in the absence of school their childhood is being ruined. “Not being able to meet friends for close to two years and the virtual world has created trauma in young children who should spend their time with classmates,” she says.
Although there is a mixed reaction to this dilemma of whether or not to send their children to school when schools reopen, most parents seem to have decided to keep them at home at least until they are vaccinated.