It is a harsh reality that the schools in India have been closed for the longest time due to the Covid -19 pandemic.
Almost two years into the pandemic, there is ample evidence of the damage the prolonged closure of schools has done to the children. UNESCO has estimated that every month away from school results in a learning loss of 2 months.
The loss of academic learning has been exponential and the impact of staying at home has affected the children’s mental health. Many studies have been conducted on the impact of school closure on learning. A McKinsey report concluded that the shutting down of schools in the second quarter of 2020 put students up to six months behind in academic milestones in comparison to peers who attended in-person classes. School closing looks like an easy thing to do because the consequences are not immediately obvious and it is a known fact that the schools were the first to close nationwide and would probably be the last to open. Due to resurgence of the virus, efforts made by some states to open up schools met with limited success.
India launched a Covid -19 vaccination drive for the 15-18 age group on January 3, 2022, wherein several lakh children received their first dose. Many parents said they felt a sense of relief, especially in the backdrop of the fresh rise in the cases.
We must not forget that in order to fight Covid we need to ensure that all are vaccinated. Thus, it will be a good idea that each school takes up the responsibility of not only vaccinating their own students but making the community aware of the same. Vaccine hesitancy is not really going to help in driving away Covid.
As a school, we need to build “Vaccine confidence”. Society at large is receiving a lot of information and misinformation to make decisions about Covid -19 vaccination. Trust in vaccines needs to be complemented by trust in the institutions responsible for vaccination. Schools are most trusted amongst the parent community. Thus, there is a need to convert each school into a vaccination centre as that can help in pacing up the vaccination drive amongst the children. Not to forget that the success of vaccination campaigns will largely be influenced by the extent to which people trust the efficacy and safety of the vaccines and the competence and reliability of the institutions that deliver them.
It was indeed admirable that the schools which opened vaccination for the students, went ahead to put up attractive selfie points, imaginative posters, colourful balloons and were decked up to welcome the youngsters.
The government needs to pace up vaccinating the kids by creating more and more centres.
The priority at the moment needs to be to scale up quickly. The government must accelerate efforts to increase supply. Furthermore, the challenge of vaccinating children in the rural areas is formidable.
For this, all educators need to come forward and start adopting schools and educate the children about the importance of inoculation against Covid.
Things can be turned around if we can drive away the dark clouds of Covid -19. This requires us not only to ramp up the pace of the roll-out of vaccines to all but also create each school as a vaccination centre in cities and rural areas.
Awareness campaigns nationwide would also help in mitigating the doubts which may be common in a large part of the rural population.
That is our best hope to protect our citizens, put our children back in school, revive our markets and have a cascading positive impact across sectors, thus ushering in 2022 with genuine optimism.
The Author is Director Principal, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad