Published: 12th June 2021
Reopen schools, says WHO. But is it really possible in India?
The UN's health body, in its most recent piece, said that COVID doesn't pose a lot of risk to children. They said that prolonged closure of schools has had negative impacts on children's mental
The pandemic has left everyone in a fix. Especially school students. Even though we cannot fully empathise, we do know that it will be quite irritating for the youngest of human beings out there to be cooped up inside their homes. However, their safety remained the utmost priority.
However, the World Health Organization thinks that enough is enough and the schools must be reopened soon. The UN's health body, in its most recent piece, said that COVID doesn't pose a lot of risk to children. "Evidence since the start of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 does not pose a high risk to children and that schools are not drivers of transmission within the surrounding community. We have also amassed a large body of knowledge about how to reduce the risks to children, teachers, and their families. Using this knowledge, we all need to urgently work toward reopening schools safely to protect our children’s future," reads the piece authored by Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, and Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific.
They have explained how prolonged closure of schools has had negative impacts on children's mental health. "The evidence shows increases in anxiety, depression, and self-harm among school-aged children since the start of the pandemic. Children who are not in the classroom also experience increased loneliness, difficulty concentrating, and high levels of learning anxiety. These problems will only grow worse the longer schools remain closed," reads the piece.
The authors also argue that the school reopening should not be dependent on the availability of vaccines. This may be a bit of a shocker for the people all around. For instance, countries including India, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Pakistan had opened schools in between for some time and had closed them immediately, citing a sudden spurt of COVID cases.
Quoting the piece, WHO's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan had tweeted, "School opening should be a high priority and can be done safely." However, many were quick to refute this, saying that the action may be suicidal.
From an Indian perspective, even though there was criticism against online classes, which isn't very effective considering the huge digital divide, not many people were keen on schools reopening soon. In fact, even now, parent groups are petitioning the Supreme Court, seeking cancellation of board examinations. While there have been demands to vaccinate students before exams, this too sounds ambitious at this point.