Mumbai reported no loss of life due to Covid today, which is welcome news, and with the Economist publishing an article that we may be witnessing the end of the pandemic and the beginning of an epidemic, the world at large recognizes the reality of living with the virus with all social distancing norms and protocols that allow for normalcy (well some will argue it is not like before, but for many, the simple act of stepping out and engaging with all norms, is in fact “normal” finally). What does this mean for us in the education space in India, and particularly Maharashtra? Can the youngest, and the most vulnerable who have been in continued lockdown be allowed to resume their world of learning as they were meant to in physical classrooms?
As many States that have seen low rates commenced schools for the younger lot, Maharashtra continues to exercise caution, and for good reason in most parts (some rural areas have commenced operations for the younger ones but not the big cities like Mumbai). The festive season does add to the woes and the task force is taking a more precautionary view given the fact that this city and many parts of Maharashtra witnessed carnage close to 8 months ago. Those memories, and realities cannot be wiped out easily.
Malls have opened for those that are double vaccinated – this is a good sign. Precautions. With steady supply of vaccines now available in public and private hospitals, the access issue that plagued the State is no longer an excuse, and in fact those not scheduling their doses need to have a solid explanation other than personal choice. WHO has published several findings that the severity affects those that are not vaccinated, so now we have concrete data to back what governments have been urging their citizens to do. Cinemas open in the city from October 22nd, as have all religious places, so the fact that more and more are being vaccinated and the news of under 18 also joining this number means that we are slowly crawling to a world where everyone can step out. But what about early learning centres?
Educators have been appealing to government officials to adopt a “staggered” approach to opening, where wards with no cases, and maximum vaccinations, can be allowed to re-open with all norms in place for teachers, parents and students. This includes family vaccination status, and teachers that are double vaccinated, proximity to medical facilities, infrastructure upgrades to have the necessary social distancing, orientation for parents and students and a carefully planned transport and cafeteria service. If these “clusters” as I like to call it can manage with efficiency, then the SOPs can be modified in a way that allows others to open?
The good news yesterday was that Tamil Nadu joined other States, and will resume schools – playschools, kindergarten from November 1st? Can this be the good news that Mumbai receives?
Mumbai are we ready? While I can safely say teachers, and managements are all geared up following strict steps to ensure that they are fully equipped, the decision ultimately lies with the parent who will or will not send their little ones to school. For me personally, it is now upto the educators to instil confidence and assure parents by orienting them, guiding them and walking them through the safety protocols, and ensuring that families continue to operate in bubbles. Because what happens after school hours, is the worry for all. In school checks will be in place but what everyone one does after school hours is the real concern. And there is enough on social media to know that the masks do come off!