The wait is finally over. Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered reopening of 10th and 12th classes for vaccinated students with 50% capacity on a given day.
Parents’ consent has been made mandatory for the students attending the school. Students, teachers, or other staffers with symptoms of cough, cold, or fever shall not be allowed to enter the school premises.
Except for 10 and 12, all classes shall continue to remain closed for in-person teaching. Coaching Centers for Civil Services/Engineering/NEET, however, have to be permitted with limited in-person teaching for fully vaccinated staff and students. All other Coaching Centers shall continue to remain closed for onsite/in-person teaching.
Higher educational institutions have been asked to commence limited in-person teaching subject to 100% vaccination of staff and students and specific permission of concerned Deputy Commissioners.
The government has asked institutions to organize special vaccination camps in consultation with the district administration. Heads of these institutions have been asked to ensure that the guidelines related to social distancing and Covid protocols are adhered to.
Following this, the health department has swung into action and decided to vaccinate students and staff at different colleges. Vaccination centers have been established in different colleges to inoculate students, teachers, and non-teaching staff.
Children in Kashmir have been hit harder as they have mostly remained confined to homes since August 5, 2019. For three years now, the students have mostly not attended school. The negative effects on children are unimaginable. The generation that had to start schooling in 2019 and 2020 is yet to understand what a real school means.
Despite attending online classes for two years, they have not yet been accustomed to waking up early, getting ready for school, or being dropped and picked up at the bus stop. And online classes can never create an atmosphere of regular schooling where kids have lunch breaks, play with fellow students and study by themselves without the help of their parents as is seen during online classes.
In fact, parents have been found complaining that they do a lot of homework during online classes that are meant to be done by their wards. Besides depression and other mental health issues, doctors have also noticed increasing obesity among children. Child Guidance and Wellbeing Centre, CGWC, IMHANS in collaboration with Directorate of School Education DESK, Kashmir had initiated community outreach programmes in the various government schools of the valley. But it was not enough.
In such circumstances, the government has taken the right decision to partially open the schools. This is the first step towards reopening schools for all classes.
The government should review the situation periodically and start offline classes in a staggered manner. Several states have reopened schools and started offline classes in a staggered manner. We need to study their models and implement them in Jammu and Kashmir. Schooling is important for child development. The sooner we understand, the better it would be.