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Health experts, educators, students, and parents come together to discuss the safe reopening of schools

Health experts, educators, students, and parents come together to discuss the safe reopening of schools

Mumbai – As of June 2021, 90% of the countries in the world are operating schools, either in full or partial capacity. India, on the other hand, is amongst the 10% where children are missing out on school learning and the risk of a generational crisis looms large on society. Teach For India, in association with The Akanksha Foundation, Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA), Harvard Law School Association Women’s Alliance (India Chapter) and Central Square Foundation, is organizing a panel discussion that brings together children, parents and experts from education, policy and health on the July 12, 2021 at 6 to 7 PM.

The panel will feature –
• Dr Mahesh Balsekar, Senior Consultant, SRCC Children’s Hospital
• Kiran Bhatty, Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for Policy Research
• Rekha Krishnan, Principal, Vasant Valley School
• Simran Khara, Parent and Start-up Founder
• Prashant Dodke, Parent and Social Worker (The Akanksha Foundation)
• Helan Elizabeth Sam, a Class 12 student and IDIA trainee from Thiruvathukkal, Kerala
• Rohan Jagadeesan, a Class 10 student at Shiv Nadar School, Gurugram

The event will be moderated by Tara Sharma Saluja, Actor, Entrepreneur and parent, and Priyanka Patil, Teach For India Fellow and Student Alumna.

The baseline of our civilization, education, is key to the development of self and society. Classroom learning, as it stands, is irreplaceable in its contribution towards the growth of our children in terms of learning, emotional & social well-being, and cognitive development. However, the pandemic has resulted in education taking a back seat for the 250 million children in India with schools being shut for a greater part of the past 15 months.

The major health concerns with the reopening of schools are the students contracting the virus and falling sick, and secondly, students acting as vectors for community transmission. Other concerns include the vaccination of teachers and students, social distancing norms in schools, and the state of infrastructure in classrooms. The panel will address these concerns with parents and other stakeholders, who will help shape policy and opinion.

According to research from Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is relatively little impact of school opening on population-wide transmission rates. Furthermore, studies show that children are significantly less likely than adults to contract the virus, and even when they get it, have lower viral loads and are less likely to become ill with it. Severe illness that requires hospitalisation is rare among children. Therefore, the decision to keep the schools shut to prevent the rising number of COVID-19 cases while reopening other parts of the economy, may not be entirely justifiable.

Online classes have been the norm for students in this country since March 2020, replete with their own set of problems. More than 80% of the teachers have found it difficult to maintain an emotional connection with students, and 90% have been unable to assess progress effectively, according to a report by Azim Premji University. Helan Elizabeth Sam, a Class 12 student panelist said – “I struggled to connect as I initially did not have a laptop and could only use a phone. It has been very difficult to follow classes, not just due to network problems, but also because we could not ask too many questions unlike in a regular classroom.”

On July 12, the panelist will discuss the pros and cons of closure/reopening and draw from experiences of school reopening worldwide.

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