As soon as some states announced school reopening, there were WhatsApp forwards of an article that said ‘66,000 kids under 10 years got infected, 85 succumbed in Maharashtra’, and parents started getting worried about school reopening. But if you read the article you realize it is from December 2020 and as you scroll down you realize that the article is actually saying that children are not at risk.
Our schools and colleges are closed for almost 17 months. We are in the middle of the second academic year when learning is virtual for all age groups. There are children who started their educational journey virtually, have never set foot in a school! What are we doing about it?
“ Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles…it only requires lowering the quality of education…the collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”
Covid task forces in many states are against reopening of schools even as UNICEF and WHO make a joint statement urging countries to reopen schools. Dr. Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO said, “The impact on children’s mental, physical and cognitive wellbeing will last a long time. School openings must be prioritized with distancing, masking, avoiding indoor singing and gatherings, hand hygiene and vaccination of all adults.”
How should we prepare for reopening? How do we get parents on board? Well, if it takes a village to raise a child then it’s time for the village to work together. There are 3 things all stakeholders should do to ensure the safe and rapid reopening of education in our country.
What can the media do?
What can educators do?
What can schools do?
What can parents do?
What can teachers do?
Adults need to study this safety cone to understand how much supervision and autonomy do children require to follow the covid safety protocols. For very young children up to 6 years, supervise them at all times, safety is completely the responsibility of parents and teachers. For children between 6-18, the responsibility is shared, you can trust them with simple things but keep reminding. And for 18 and above, it is their responsibility, to ensure proper rules and repercussions are in place.
It’s time to learn from a small town in Italy called Reggio Emilia and keep children first, in our decisions. Reggio Emilia was completely destroyed after the second world war, the people of the town came together to decide what to start rebuilding first- their homes, their church, or schools. It was a unanimous decision to rebuild the schools first so that children can be safe and learning while the adults restart the town and its economy. It’s time to think children first and it will happen when all stakeholders: the parents, teachers, educators, schools, media, and every citizen becomes the community that thinks ‘children first’.
It’s time to reopen schools safely, it’s time to give children their right to education, it’s time to give children their connection to socio-emotional skills.
About the author:
Dr. Swati Popat Vats is the President, Podar Education Network, Early Childhood Association India and Association for Primary Education & Research. She is a widely read author and expert on parenting, early childhood, and learning methodologies.
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