New Delhi: A body representing more than 100 private schools in Delhi has written to the deputy governor (LG), urging him to immediately reopen schools for students of all grades, and stressed that there can be no justification for keeping schools closed when all other activities are allowed to resume.
The National Progressive School Conference (NPSC) – an organization of 122 private schools in the city – said the prolonged closure of schools due to the Covid pandemic has affected the mental and physical health of children, along with impeding learning. The NPSC’s letter comes a day after the Action Committee for Unsupported Private Schools, another large group of private schools in Delhi, sent to LG on Sunday and sought a meeting with it to discuss reopening schools.
“Unfortunately, Delhi schools have been shut down due to the pandemic for almost two years and this has taken a huge toll on the mental and physical health of children of all age groups. The letter signed by NPSC President Sudha Acharya said the current scenario creates huge educational gaps which will lead to disaster for generations. It has uninterruptedly long-term and deep-rooted repercussions.
Schools were first closed in March 2020 when a nationwide lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. It reopened for grades 10 and 12 for practical work and board preparation in January 2021 and for grades 9 and 11 in February. However, nearly two months later, schools were again asked to close on April 9 amid another spike in Covid. On September 1, schools reopened to students in grades 9-12 and in-person lessons for students of all grades resumed on November 1.
Later, in a series of closures due to dangerous levels of pollution, schools closed on November 13, reopened on November 29, and closed again on December 2. 6 and up as of December 18 after approval by the Commission on Air Quality Management (CAQM). But the Department of Education (DoE) issued an order on December 28 to close schools “until further orders.”
Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, after meeting with a delegation of parents seeking urgent reopening of schools, said the government would recommend the reopening of schools at the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting. However, last Thursday’s DDMA meeting postponed the decision on reopening schools.
“I agree with (their parents’ demands). We closed schools when it was not safe for children but excessive caution is hurting our children now. A generation of children will be left behind if we don’t open our schools now,” Sisodia said after meeting parents. among the major nations to decide on this?” he asked.
In its letter, the NPSC said that teachers have not only observed learning gaps, but also seen changes in behavior and seen mental health issues among students. LG urged the necessary steps to be taken to reopen the school, and the authority said the loss of learning would be irreversible if students were denied classroom learning.
“The online situation leads to undesirable scenarios such as increased exposure to violence and spam, cyberbullying, global obesity, social isolation, feelings of uncertainty, aggression, frustration, and depression,” the NPSC said.
In its letter to LG on Sunday, the Action Committee for Unsupported Private Schools said: “It is a humble request to you to reopen schools because our students at all levels have been facing significant learning losses for nearly two years now. We assure you that the schools will reopen safely and smoothly. Many have reopened. From major metro cities in India and beyond, schools are opening. We believe it is time for Delhi to also take a strong decision to reopen physical learning spaces.”
Officials at LG’s office said all “pros and cons are taken into consideration” by the DDMA before deciding whether to ease restrictions.
Decisions to impose, cancel or ease restrictions are made by the DDMA which includes LG, CM, Dy CM and other ministers, as well as experts and the First Secretary. These decisions take into account all variables of specific as well as greater public interest and are based on expert advice at DDMA. The decision to pursue restrictions is made by DDMA considering all the pros and cons of such a decision. Accordingly, DDMA will take all future decisions based on expert advice after considering all relevant aspects including compliance with the appropriate Covid protocol, and the general welfare of the people of Delhi,” the officials said in a written response.
On Monday, Delhi reported 2,779 new cases of COVID-19, with a positivity rate of 6.2%. Also, the total number of patients (including suspected patients) admitted to hospitals was only 1,518 – less than 10% of available capacity.
Dr Jujal Kishore, chief of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, said the continued closure of schools in the capital was inexplicable.
Kishore said it was essential for the government to reopen schools for all children, and added that it should not be linked to vaccinations. “One cannot understand why schools are not reopening in Delhi even though many other states are resuming physical lessons. Vaccination should not be mentioned as a reason to delay the reopening of schools. Moreover, there is no vaccine for children under 15 years of age. Schools should reopen for children in all grades for their overall growth and development,” Kishore said.