The UNICEF on Monday urged the decision-makers and governments to prioritize and plan for the safe reopening of schools. It also stated that keeping the schools shut due to the fear of the pandemic could lead to “generational catastrophe”.
“It’s been 18 months since the COVID-19 outbreak started and over 156 million children are still out of school. Getting students back into classrooms cannot wait,” said UNICEF in a Tweet.
It’s been 18 months since the COVID-19 outbreak started and over 156 million children are still out of school.— UNICEF (@UNICEF) July 19, 2021
Getting students back into classrooms cannot wait. @unicefchief @AAzoulay pic.twitter.com/3FCNKbGpNy
In a statement released on July 12, UNICEF expressed concerns over governments keeping the schools shut while allowing bars and restaurants to function.
“The losses that children and young people will incur from not being in school may never be recouped. From learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, to missed school-based meals and vaccinations or reduced development of social skills, the consequences for children will be felt in their academic achievement and societal engagement as well as physical and mental health. The most affected are often children in low-resource settings who do not have access to remote learning tools, and the youngest children who are at key developmental stages,” remarked UNICEF in its statement.
School reopening cannot wait till cases go to zero, said the release. “Closing schools mortgages our future for unclear benefits to our present. We must prioritize better. We can reopen schools safely, and we must,” UNICEF concluded.
WHO Chief Scientist also urged for reopening of schools
Soumya Swaminathan, the Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization furthered UNICEF’s appeal of reopening the schools. Quoting UNICEF’s Tweet, Swaminathan wrote, “With teachers & adults working in schools prioritized for vaccination & preventive measures to reduce spread of #COVID19, schools can be safely opened. 150 million children out of school with limited access to online education & midday meals will take a much bigger toll on them.”
With teachers & adults working in schools prioritized for vaccination & preventive measures to reduce spread of #COVID19, schools can be safely opened. 150 million children out of school with limited access to online education & midday meals will take a much bigger toll on them. https://t.co/FG7vZ0FgDj— Soumya Swaminathan (@doctorsoumya) July 19, 2021
AIIMS director suggests opening school in a staggered manner
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria too in an interview earlier had stated that schools in areas with fewer Covid-19 cases must reopen. “Districts should open schools in a staggered manner and bring back children on alternate days, said Dr Guleria.
He also recommended a surveillance mechanism so the schools can be shut immediately in case a rise in cases is observed. “I am a proponent of opening up schools in a staggered way for districts that are seeing less virus circulation. It (reopening of schools) can be planned for places having positivity rates below 5 per cent,” he said.
Talking about digital inaccessibility, Guleria stated, “Covid-19 has reaffirmed the need to bridge the gaps in internet access. The digital divide exists across borders, fields, and generations, impacting virtually every aspect of life.”
Meanwhile, some states/ districts in India have begun reopening schools for the new academic year for class 10 and 12 students.