Schools are reopening everywhere all across the country. Many states have already opened them, and the rest are following suit. Our children have not been going to school for the past one and a half years since march 2020. Schools have remained closed since the beginning of the covid pandemic. After much deliberation, the central government has decided to reopen schools in a phased manner. However, the actual timing and method of reopening will be determined by individual states. The big question amongst all parents today is whether to send or not send their child to school. Many such discussions amongst parents, family friends have not reached any conclusion.
In this blog, I write about parents’ fears regarding school reopening and why it is time to send the kids to school again. How to deal with the anxiety of parents and children’s, tackle the non-vanishing covid and finally decide whether to send or not send our child to school.
Fears of parents regarding school reopening
Today, many parents oppose school reopening and are not comfortable sending their child to school unless covid cases go down entirely to zero or until vaccination arrives for kids. Parents don’t want to risk the life of their children. This risk of getting infected with covid is a valid fear, but we need to rationalise ourselves. For how long are we going to keep the kids in the safety of our homes. After lifting lockdown, we took our kids to malls, took them to meet relatives and sent them to play with other kids. Some of us have also sent them to birthday parties. But then why are we hesitating so much to send them to schools.
The argument here is, school reopening means vast numbers of people. Parents don’t trust their children to keep the masks on or follow social distancing while at schools where they can not keep an eye on them. Plus the common source of drinking water, assembly gathering, vaccination of teachers and school staff. Will the school’s be able to handle all these? These are all valid questions, but we need to find a middle ground. Parents need to work with school management and teachers to find a solution for a stress-free and safe reopening of schools rather than completely denying the option of sending children to schools. Difficult situations demand complex answers. But there is a solution for everything. We need to find it.
Is it the right time for school reopening
The answer to this question is, there will never be a right or wrong time to reopen schools during these covid times. One thing we need to understand is that covid is not going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, the cases have decreased. We have better control now on the spread of infection. After one and a half years, we are also better prepared to handle the situation in case of one more wave. As per Dr Soumya Swaminathanan, chief assistant of WHO, it seems that India is maybe entering the stage of endemicity, meaning when a population learns to live with the virus, and it becomes like any other viral infection. But then again, with covid, nothing is predictable like we have seen.
In these times, online schooling has been a great boon to all of us. Today digital learning has emerged as a necessary tool for students and schools all over the world. For 10th and 12th students, one of the crucial deciding years, children could continue their education through online schools. Our younger lot, kids as young as 5 and 4 years old, also adapted to the new way of learning. They all could attend classes from any location of their choice.
But then, advantages don’t come without hurdles. One of the biggest challenges of online learning was focussing on the screen for more extended periods. Children getting distracted easily. Checking on individual performance has also been difficult online. Many parents had a challenging one-year managing work from home as well as making their kids learn. I am talking about the younger ones here who needed someone to sit beside them and guide them while learning to read and write.
Students also learn a lot in the company of their peers. However, because of minimal physical interaction, a sense of isolation has set in. The confidence in meeting new people, communication, language, interpersonal and social skills essential to physical and emotional well-being has taken a step back. Screen time has increased, which we anyways know is not healthy. All these hurdles make school reopening very essential.
Therefore, while reopening schools we need to find a middle ground where we can blend online learning and few days of in-school learning in a safe, protected environment and utilise the advantages of both to create a safer place for our kids. The government guidelines are also in sync with these thought processes. They have not made attendance compulsory for any student. Many states like Maharashtra, Telangana have already started schools along with the same guidelines. The centre has also permitted the reopening of schools in a phased manner. The article in Indian express details the guideline given by the centre. It is essential for parents to know of these guidelines and not be in a state of confusion. The choice is and will remain in your hands for the near future.
How to deal with the anxiety of school reopening in covid times
Since the school reopening news, parents are worried and concerned, and children are excited and nervous to go back to school. It is not going to be easy for either. Some early years preprimary kids are going to enter school for the first time. After 18 months of staying together all the time, there will be separation anxiety in many kids. Even kids with no social anxiety are going to feel nervous because they are out of practice. Parents need to be very patient in dealing with such situations. Parents have more significant tasks ahead. Keep calm, listen to your child, take their worries seriously, be reassuring. Help them prepare. Kids pick up parents anxiety very quickly, so try to inform them without transmitting your worry.
By now, no matter the age, all kids know the importance of wearing a mask and not be close to others for a more extended period. However, do inform it once again so that it imbibes in their minds as protocol. Teachers will also be doing the same in schools. We feel that children will not do it, will not follow the rules, but children adapt to newer situations better than adults. They are very resilient that way.
Schools are not going to be the same as pre covid times. Explain to them that this is for their safety.
Uncertainty is what makes us all very uncomfortable. There is a likelihood that kids may have to go back and forth between online learning and in-person learning. Also, if there is an increase in cases, schools might shut down again. Acceptance is the key here, accept the situation and try to adapt to it instead of fighting it. Scientific evidence to this date about covid tells us that kids are less likely to suffer from severe effects of infection, unlike adults. There is no such thing as zero risk and zero cases esp in a pandemic. The risk of infection is there, but it will be like any other infection which a child can get. Also, not going to school will not give 100 guarantees of not getting covid.
Schools will follow a set of protocols that will help keep our children safe. Schools will not hold classes for all grades on one day. Attendance will be rotational on alternate days or every two days as per the state government’s school reopening guidelines. Would you please go through your state guidelines and speak to your concerned school authorities about the same? Being informed will help in reducing your anxiety to a great level.
Finally, to send kids or not to send them after school reopening
Fears of parents are legitimate, but the reopening of schools is also essential. We never thought that our children could adapt to the online way of learning, but they did. Now is the time to go back to the traditional way of in-person learning for the kids’ social, physical, and emotional well-being and adapt to that. Don’t worry much and take a rational approach. Don’t become adamant about not sending. The choice is yours to make. So there is no need to panic. In-person attendance is not compulsory and will not be so for the coming months. The government is also encouraging blended learning where both forms of education, online and in-person, will continue for the near future.
But we need to make a start somewhere, and that time is now. Please do read central and state government laid guidelines, speak to the concerned school management and teachers, listen to all the precautions and arrangements been taken by the school and make an informed decision about whether to send your child to school or not in covid times.