With fears of Omicron COVID variant, educationists call for well-thought-out plan instead of another lockdown on schools

School heads believe it is now crucial to reopen schools as prolonged closures have led to serious learning loss amongst children
Representative Image | Pic: PTI
Representative Image | Pic: PTI

With the new variant of COVID-19 sparking concerns and uncertainty, health and education experts have called for a well-thought-out plan for schools rather than prolonged closures again. The variant, Omicron, first detected in South Africa on November 24, was designated by the World Health Organization as a 'variant of concern', the health body's top category for worrying Coronavirus variants.

The Principal of Delhi's Pacific World School, Seema Kaur, pointed out that just when schools have started to settle in, the threat from the new variant has brought about mountains of uncertainty and anxiety. "Uncertainty and anxiety are building up with the news of the Omicron variant, yet all we have to do is be prepared and take precautions," Kaur said. "The education sector has been worst-hit (by the pandemic) wherein children's academic, social and mental skills have gone for a toss," she added. 

Pragya Sharma, Professor at Maulana Azad Medical College's Department of Community Medicine, said that reports from South Africa suggest that the variant causes a mild infection and Delhi has high seropositivity of 97 per cent. "We should resume physical classes but with a lot of caution and follow COVID-appropriate behaviour rigorously," Sharma said. 

Dr Karan Madan, pulmonologist, AIIMS, said that physical classes in schools can be resumed under careful watch. "At present, the number of new cases of COVID in Delhi is not high. If symptomatic cases start increasing, we will have to act accordingly. For now, things can be taken forward under careful monitoring and observation," he said.

Anshu Mittal, Principal, MRG School, Rohini, believes school reopening is crucial now as students have already been deprived of their active learning and social life for the last 18 months, which has certainly created a huge learning gap for them to fill. "However, we look forward to the approval of vaccines for children by authorities to ensure that the students are safeguarded. We, as a school, are well equipped to receive our students," Mittal said. "Schools must keep open communication with parents to ensure they all are vaccinated and (parents must) keep the school in the loop in case of travelling abroad or to infected zones," Mittal added.

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