The dilemma associated with students’ health and the physical classes

As schools are being reopened though at a limited level after a long period of more than a year, which is appreciable as things are steadily moving back to normal. There is also a demand amongst students’ to further the reopening of schools, which got reflected in a school student petition to the Supreme Court of India.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of India while hearing the petition of the school student said that the decision to open up the schools depends entirely on the individual States and the court will not “queer the pitch”. The Bench was of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna. The student wanted the governments’ to take a time-bound decision to open up schools for physical classes.

It could be understood that the demand is genuine as it has been more than a year for the school students sitting at home, engaged in the online mode of learning with limited physical interaction with their fellow mates, teachers, and other non-teaching staff of their school, the interaction that is essential for her/his overall socio-cultural development.

Despite that, there are concerns associated with the reopening as the Covid 19 pandemic is not over as of yet which was highlighted by Justice Chandrachud observing that, “Governments have to tread with the greatest care when opening schools and exposing children to the virus… If so, the courts have to take greater care, that too, with no data at hand.”

However, the concerns associated with online learning are neither less. The school faculty and parents have time and again complained about the limitations and inefficiencies related to the online mode of education. It has been acknowledged that the online mode of education is not a direct substitute to the physical mode of education especially for young school going students being their tender age in which their socio-cultural development with education is of utmost importance.

Another concern associated with the online mode of education has been the lack of privilege to access. As per the Ministry of Education, Department of School Education and Literacy 30 million students are without any digital devices. Can we expect online mode of education to be a success in such a scenario? The answer might be harsh, remaining ‘no’ resoundingly.

Countries like; France, Canada, Germany, Britain, among others have started to vaccinate their children population, India on the other side is yet to start with any such process. Although, the world’s first needle-free DNA vaccine has been provided with the emergency approval for usage is awaited for actual usage. This further becomes a cause of concern when various states are starting back with the physical classes, though the claims about Covid-19 protocols being followed are made.

It is therefore difficult to choose from students’ health and wellbeing with the physical classes as the concerns associated with online mode of education as well as physical classes are real. The middle ground could be to open up the schools after students’ are vaccinated at least with one dose. It is however late to suggest as the states have started with physical classes, however, the decision could be reconsidered.

(Vamsi Krishna Venkiteela has been the Research Assistant for the title).

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