Social-distancing: Will it be Possible When Schools Reopen?
For Nivriti Borah, a student of class 1, studying in a private school of Guwahati, the lockdown is just sooooo boring!
She used to love her holidays just when the unit tests were about to start as she no longer had to study. But this “holiday” is unlike all the other that were so enjoyable.
This one is sad, boring and to top it there is daily homework. She can’t go to her mama’s place in Jorhat as she did earlier. She cannot go out for movies. No eating in restaurants. And then, she can’t even play with her friends in the neighbourhood. She did not even go shopping with her parents for Bihu. And there were no ice creams and balloons in the Bihu-tolis that she was looking forward to.
All this, dear Nivriti, is because of the lockdown: a critical situation for all those who understand the significance of the step that was taken. For Nivriti’s parents it’s a time to worry about financial issues, availability of essential goods & services and to offer prayers to overcome this pandemic.
With social-distancing found to be the foremost means to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the educational institutions were the first to close down. Educational institutions see large gatherings daily. Of these, it is the schools and mostly its lower classes that are mainly worrisome. Although these young preschoolers and children might be the least vulnerable to the Covid-19, they also remain oblivious of the crisis.
Parents and teachers have been trying their level best to make them understand the pandemic that has hit the world. Also, elders are trying to imbibe in kids the good habits of washing hands, sanitization, other practices of hygiene and most importantly, social distancing. But do children really understand? Can they be expected to fully understand these concepts?
For most of our kids it has been a long vacation. For the CBSE students who were just about to start the new academic session, the lockdown happened giving them an extended vacation. For the students of SEBA this is an unexpectedly long holiday, just when the unit tests were about to start.
However, from a kid’s perspective the holidays seem to have extended way too long and without the usual fun.
So, does she Nivriti know about social-distancing?
“Yes. Ma said I must stay away from my friends, were face mask and wash my hands and study,” Nivriti promptly retorted.
So what will she do when school reopens?
“I will meet all my friends, play with them.....lots ...and lots. We will play hide and seek, passing the parcel and many more. I will talk and talk with them and have ice cream in the shop near our school. They have my favourite strawberry ice cream,” she said.
For the kids, they have memorised the measures, rather ‘rules’ of going to school. The rules are: wear a face mask, wash your hands, sanitize and don’t go near your friends.
But there is no certainty as to how much these rules will be followed.
Nivriti’s mother, obviously worried, said, “We do not want schools to open for some time. The longer they are kept closed the better, at least for the lower sections. Parents will put a mask on them, but as soon as they reach school they are sure to remove it. Either they will feel hot or will take it off while eating their tiffins. Excuses are endless, always. I know teachers are there, but it’s not easy to manage this lot.”
“My opinion is that studies have come to a virtual stop. The school is offering online classes, videos and write ups. But for the kids, it’s more like a vacation. Also online studies are new to them and difficult to understand. However, it’s better this way than to falling ill,” she added.
Kids are difficult to be kept away from friends even when someone contracts a regular contagious disease like seasonal flu, normal viral fever, conjunctivitis, etc. So how are they to understand COVID-19 that is completely new even to the experts?
Will they understand social-distancing? If so, will they follow the rules or go by instinct?
The government might open the educational institutions after the lockdown period, citing the lapse in academic sessions. But have scientifically measured steps been taken as to how to manage the huge numbers of school-going kids?
Although most parents prefer to keep their child at home and opt for online studying, the same might not sound completely feasible in the long run. However, the government along with the schools and child experts need to come up with measures to tackle the issue at hand - social distancing amongst kids if schools are to be opened anytime soon.
- educational institutions
- Primary school