Hyderabad: Many Parents Associations have started an online protest against the reopening of schools in the country.

The majority of the parents are not ready to send their children to schools until the vaccine is rolled out.

NewsMeter spoke to Parents Associations in Hyderabad, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Punjab, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chattisgarh, and Gujarat to know what exactly they want when it comes to the opening of schools. The majority of them said no to the reopening of the schools until a vaccine is developed.

All School Parents Association in Delhi launched an online protest hashtag #NoSchoolTillVaccination on October 6, 2020.

Many parents supported the move saying schools should not be reopened until there is a safe and, reliable vaccine available in the country.

National President of All School Parents Association Shivani Jain said school reopening is not at all welcomed.

“Every day one lakh new Covid positive cases are reported in India. Amid this, do you think kids will be safe in schools? The government is taking one-sided decisions. If the government is in favor of opening schools, then why can’t they take responsibility for each child by giving an undertaking to parents that their kids will be safe,” she said.

Elaborating, she said despite all precautionary measures, 23 MPs and other staff were found positive on the first day of the parliament session. “Twenty three students of Class 9 and 10 were found positive in Hyderabad. In this situation do you think opening schools is the right decision? We conducted an online survey and about 95 percent of parents said no to sending kids to school,” she said.

Hyderabad School Parents Association (HSPA) conducted a poll asking parents if they are ready to send their kids to school after Dussehra. Among the 4,232 parents surveyed, 97 percent gave thumbs down to the school reopening.

“It has been more than six months since the pandemic started. Even though learning through online classes is very tough for many children, but most of the parents feel they are not ready to send their children to school until the vaccine is available. Most of the parents are even ok if the government declares this academic year as zero-year,” said Seema Agarwal, Member of Hyderabad School Parents Association

She noted that some schools are asking NOC from parents. “I fail to understand how a parent can give an undertaking. This is what happened at the College of Excellence run by Telangana Gurukul. Ten teachers and some students contracted the infection,” she said.

Another parent from HSPA stated that if schools reopen, it can pose a big threat to the people of all age groups. “Chain of infection may spread to infants, small children, and the elderly. In the end, extra burden of caring for the sick, elderly and the children will come on mothers’ shoulders,” she said.

Dr. Neeru Tomer, Jaipur Parents Association told Newsmeter that people should refrain from sending children to school. “One mistake and our children could be in danger. Don’t know why some parents and government think that kids can go to schools? The absolute thought to send kids to school is insane. It is being promoted by those schools which just want fees,” she said.

Kishore Pillai, President of Vadodara Parents Association told Newsmeter that it would be very difficult to follow COVID safeguards in schools. “We have a reservation about the ability of the schools to follow the SOP’s,” he said.

Khursheed Ahmed, President of Parents Association of Private Schools Kashmir told Newsmeter that they are never included in any decision-making process either by the government or the management of schools.

“The government are not ready to listen to health experts. Parents are not consulted. Our demand is very simple. Either wait for the vaccine or wait for the COVID curve to flatten,” he said.

Ajay Sharma, President Parents Association Ludhiana, Punjab told Newsmeter that for the safety of children, staff should be tested before opening schools. “Children should also be allowed to sit in classes only after COVID-19 tests. Schools that ignore the safety of the children should be closed. The state government should keep a check on schools to ensure the safety of the children,” he said.

Kristopher Paul, State President of Chhattisgarh Parents Association told Newsmeter that with the increase in COVID-19 cases, the state government has decided not to open schools as of now. “Children are prone to the virus. Until the vaccine is developed, it is better not to send the kids to school,” he said.

Subhash Singh, President of Jharkhand Parents Association told Newsmeter that they are conducting a survey across the country whether schools should reopen or not. “We are receiving several complaints from parents regarding the opening of schools. We are starting a toll-free helpline number so that the parents can register complaint,” he said.

Jayant Jain President, Forum for Fairness in Education in Mumbai said it will be difficult to maintain classroom hygiene, social distancing and discipline if the schools reopen.

• Classroom Hygiene: Corona can easily spread through enclosed classrooms as a virus is not only highly contagious in nature but also airborne. It will also be difficult for teachers to monitor if students are practicing strict personal hygiene practices like not touching their masks, eyes, nose, and mouths, washing hands frequently. Repeated use of sanitizers has other health side effects.

• Discipline: In an article published by Technocracy News, Dr. Russell Blaylock wrote that the side effects from prolonged wearing of a face mask “can vary from headaches to increased airway resistance, carbon dioxide accumulation, to hypoxia, all the way to serious life-threatening complications. Expecting students to wear the mask throughout the school hours i.e. for 3 – 6 hours is also not advisable.

• Social Distancing: It would be very difficult to expect students to maintain social distancing. Even if we are successful in maintaining it in classrooms, how would school ensure that same can be done while using the toilets.

• Threat of Community Transmission at large: If students’ contract COVID 19 infection in school or at home, they will not only be infecting fellow students but also put their families and people coming in contact with them at high risk.

“A recent report by Economic Times mentioned that more than 20 Lok Sabha representatives tested positive for Covid-19. According to WHO, children under the age of 18 years represent about 8.5 percent of reported cases, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups. However, cases of critical illness have been reported and cannot be completely ruled out. Maharashtra is the worst-hit state in the whole country with COVID cases nearly double. RTE Act says that all students up to 8th standard should be promoted to the next class, and then it makes no sense to hurry and reopen schools,” Jayant said.

Anusha Puppala

Anusha Puppala is currently working at NewsMeter. She had earlier worked as a reporter with ANI and The News Minute. Previously, she has worked as a Senior Reporter with the Deccan Chronicle Newspaper, covering education beat. She had briefly associated with the national television channel Tiranga TV as a special correspondent. Anusha has extensively written stories on education, traffic, civic-issues, human-Interesting, off-Beat, consumer issues, health and environment. Hailing from Visakhapatnam, Anusha is a social media buff and a passionate foodie. If not reporting, you will always find her travelling.

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