The Delhi government will recommend the reopening of schools in the national capital at a DDMA meeting on Jan. 27, as it has now become necessary to prevent further damage to the social and emotional well-being of children, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said on Wednesday.
Sisodia argued that online education can never replace offline education, saying the government had closed schools when it was not safe for children, but excessive caution is now hurting students.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) convened a meeting on Thursday to deliberate on easing curbs in the national capital in view of the improved COVID-19 situation. The reopening of schools is also on the agenda.
“For the past two years, schoolchildren’s lives have been confined to their rooms. Instead of going to schools and spending time in playgrounds, all their activities now take place only on mobile phones.
“The school closures caused by the pandemic have affected not only their studies, but also their mental health. During COVID, our priority was the safety of children. But as several studies have shown that COVID is not as harmful to children, it is important to reopen the schools as it is now time for exams and related preparations,” said Sisodia.
Sisodia, which owns the education portfolio, said schools are reopening in several countries and even in many Indian states.
“On this basis, the Delhi government will recommend reopening the schools during the DDMA meeting scheduled for January 27,” he said.
“Although Covid cases and the positivity rate in Delhi are declining, it would not be appropriate to keep children away from school. With kids returning to school, not only will the schools witness a buzz, but it will signal that lives are getting back on track,” he said.
Earlier today, a delegation of parents led by Chandrakant Lahariya, an epidemiologist and public policy specialist, and Yamini Aiyar, president of the Center for Policy Research, met Sisodia and submitted a memorandum signed by more than 1,600 parents and demanded the reopening of schools.
“Why are we the last of the big countries to decide this? I agree with their demands. A generation of children will be left behind if we don’t open our schools now,” Sisodia added.
Lahariya pointed out that according to AIIMS, ICMR, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, NITI Aayog, WHO and several other organizations, the risk of Covid in children is much smaller.
“School closures have a number of benefits, but the negative impact on children’s learning and mental-emotional well-being has been significant. That is why reopening schools is an urgent need of the hour,” he said.
After a brief reopening, schools in Delhi were closed again on December 28 last year in view of the third wave of COVID-19, powered by the Omicron variant.
Aiyar said a huge learning gap was observed in children because they stayed away from school for a long time.
“Due to the pandemic, it has only grown over the past two years and by keeping children further away from schools, an entire generation will move forward with the learning gap. She went on to say that several researchers have found that children forget even basic math and basic language skills. To bridge the learning gap, it is important that schools reopen. Schools focus on the overall development of children, which is not possible at home and through online education,” she says.