New Delhi: A parliamentary panel on education has suggested “accentuated” Covid vaccination for all students and teachers in a bid to reopen schools. The sustained closure of schools since last year has disturbed the social fabric of the country, resulting in early child marriages, the panel noted.
The “hazards of not opening the schools are too serious to be ignored”, said the report by the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports, headed by BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. The report was tabled in Parliament Friday.
“The confinement of young children within the four walls of the house, being unable to attend school, has altered the relationship between the parent and the children adversely… The closure of schools has impacted the social fabric of the family in negative manner leading to early/child marriage and increased involvement of children in household chores,” it said.
The panel suggested going for “accentuated” vaccine programmes for all students, teachers and allied staff so that schools start functioning normally at the earliest.
It said “classes may be held on alternate days or in two shifts to thin out students” along with “observance of physical distancing and compulsory wearing of face masks at all times”.
Regular thermal screening at the time of attendance and random RT-PCR tests to identify and isolate the sick person has also been advised by the committee.
The Department of School Education and Literacy should set up at least one hybrid model school — with in-person as well as online classes — in each and every district and tehsil of the country. The committee said these schools should become operational by October, with all the necessary infrastructure.
What the experts and previous studies say
Despite talks of an imminent third wave of Covid, discussions on reopening of schools in India have gained momentum in the last few days.
ThePrint reported earlier this month about how experts are now pushing the authorities to reopen schools as the closure is not just adding to the physical but mental agony of children. Obesity and mental trauma have increased over the past one year, said paediatricians.
The committee noted that 32 crore children in India have not stepped into a classroom for more than a year and have lost a tenth of their entire schooling already.
Talking about the learning gap this has created, the committee mentioned a report by the Azim Premji University in 44 districts across five states — Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand — covering 16,067 children in Classes 2 to 6 in 1,137 schools.
The study that was conducted in January this year showed that 92 per cent of children lost at least one specific language ability and 82 per cent lost at least one specific mathematical ability from the previous year across all classes.
“Thus, school closures have resulted in loss of not only curricular learning but given rise to a widespread phenomenon of regression (forgetting) by students of learning from the previous class,” it added.
While the government has not yet come up with an official assessment of the kind of learning gap school closure has created among school children, it did inform about the availability of digital education among children.
A report submitted to the parliamentary panel on education in June said nearly two crore children in India are without access to digital learning.
To determine the learning gap, the government now plans to conduct the National Assessment Survey, which is conducted by the National Council for Education Research and Training in November.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
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