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Life should move on


The schools are finally reopening from March 1. The educational institutes had been asked to shut right before the government of India abrogated Article 370 and divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories in August 2019. While there were some attempts to open schools in March last year after the winters ended, COVID-19 engulfed the whole world, thus further shutting down the schools for another year. A few weeks ago, the government finally decided that it would open the schools in Kashmir from March 1 when the usual winter break used to end each year. While the authorities claim that the schools are well prepared as far as the SOPs for COVID-19 safety are concerned, the parents of the students are still wary and concerned. Many of them are still in dilemma about whether to send their wards to schools when they reopen after two back-to-back lockdowns. As already reported by this newspaper, while some parents feel it is high time to ‘live with the virus’, others say it is better to wait for a couple of months more. One of the reasons parents who support the government’s move put forth is that it is high time that we all started living with the virus like many parts of the world are. They say when kids can go and attend tuition centres and coaching institutes, it doesn’t make any sense to keep them away from schools any longer. They also opine that if the schools are ready to take the responsibility of ensuring all the safety protocols are in place, then there should not be a confusion about sending kids back to schools. At the same time, there are several parents who are worried after learning about reports in which students who went back to school contracted the virus. For instance, last week, according to a news report, as many as 192 students in two government schools in south India’s Kerala tested positive for Coronavirus. Besides the students, 72 staff members too contracted the virus, according to the reports quoting Health Authorities in the state. The parents’ apprehension is based on facts, as many other places have also reported a rise in cases among the children as soon as they resumed schools. Asma Goni, Convener of the Parents Association of Privately Administered Schools (PAPAS), recently said that parents associated with them were of the opinion that it was not safe for children up to Class VIII to resume school. If one talks of the preparations, the government order that announced the school reopening, had asked them to follow the standard operating procedures in letter and spirit as per the suggestions of the district disaster management authorities. The order pointed out that students must sit two metres apart, and if the schools did not have enough space to follow it, they should go for shifts. Wearing of masks, as per the order, has been made mandatory for both students and teachers. Schools have been asked to set up hand washing points with proper soap availability for everyone. In case of absence of washing stations, hand sanitizers of standard quality prescribed by the government should be used as hand rub. Disinfecting, sanitizing, and cleaning the learning spaces and surfaces in convergence with the concerned department and local volunteers should be a daily affair. While coming and leaving school, students and teachers should maintain a physical distance of at least two meters from each other and no student or teacher should breach this distance rule. Exchanging notebooks, stationery items have been strictly banned.  The student safety, self-esteem, and security should be ensured. While one understands and respects the parents’ apprehensions, it is time to restart formal academic activities as any more delay would not be logical. We all know we have to live with the virus, let’s do that while following all the precautions.