India postpones in-school learning as omicron surges 

This month, parents, teachers and kids in India were poised to reenter their classrooms complete time. Omicron has pumped the brakes on that. 

For parents like Teresa Khanna, it’s a nuisance. 

“It’s been so long now that I really can’t remember how it was when he went to physical school.”

Teresa Khanna, parent of a 10-year-old in India

“It’s been so long now that I really can’t remember how it was when he went to physical school.”

Related: Heavy smog shuts down schools in India’s capital

Khanna’s 10-year-old son Shreyas is in the fifth grade. His last complete day in school was in March 2020. Khanna said he went to school again in November 2021 for a associate of half days, fully masked with all COVID-19 protocols in place. But soon, schools shut down again. 

In Mumbai, only middle schools and high schools reopened last year, but with a far away learning option for those who didn’t want to risk the classroom. 

As omicron spreads, most states in India have postponed physical school however again. 

Khanna said at first, Shreyas was excited about online learning. He could sleep in and walk up to school in the next room; he didn’t already have to use his complete school uniform because only his shirt was visible online. 

But the novelty soon wore off. 

Related: India will soon roll out a DNA vaccine for the coronavirus. It’s the latest example of how COVID-19 is transforming vaccines.

Shreyas said online school is boring, and he feels “very lonely.” He misses chatting with friends in the breaks between classes. 

“The 15 minutes breaks here are me just sitting in the bed and doing nothing, so I really don’t enjoy what the school has done.”

Shreyas Khanna, 10-year-old student, learning at home during COVID-19 in India

“The 15 minutes breaks here are me just sitting in the bed and doing nothing, so I really don’t enjoy what the school has done.”

 He misses being in person and playing or “having funny chats with nice friends, eating food and discussing every single thing.” 

“So, I definitely would like to go back to school … if possible,” he said. 

It’s not just the kids who expressed disappointment. Teachers say the speed is exhausting. Many think that teaching online is much harder than in-person lessons, and they can’t tell if the kids are truly paying attention. 

It’s already harder in rural India where 70% of Indians live. 

Teachers have struggled as much as students to adapt to teaching and learning online, according to Rushda Mujeeb, who works with the Bernard van Leer Foundation, an international organization focused on early childhood development in India. 

“I think this has put a lot of stress on young children and their caregivers,” she said. 

Technology poses a major challenge. Having someone at home to sort out computer issues is one thing. But for so many lower-income families, access itself is a problem. 

“It’s not always affordable, a lot of parents may not have access nor understanding of the digital technologies that are in use,” she said.  

A lot of kids don’t have access to smartphones or reliable internet access. 

The long-term impact on kids remains unknown. In September, a group of researchers proven a four-year learning deficit among underprivileged kids. What that method is that a child who was in third grade in 2020, and is heading to fifth grade this year would characterize the reading skills of a first grader. 

Mujeeb mentioned a UNICEF report that said 42% of children between the ages of 6 to 13 years have not been able to access any form of far away learning in India. 

“We will see this play out in learning loss and so on for the next four years, unless we find ways or the government finds ways to to catch up on some of these things.”

Rushda Mujeeb, Bernard van Leer Foundation

“We will see this play out in learning loss and so on for the next four years unless we find ways or the government finds ways to catch up on some of these things,” she warned. 

Nutrition is another concern for kids who cannot go to school now. 

India has a long-running school lunch program in government schools. Mujeeb said for a lot of children, lunch is the main reason their parents send them to school and that has been severely affected by the school closures. 

In turn, malnutrition could become more of a problem, which also impacts children’s ability to learn, she said. 

School closures could also have a disproportionate impact on girls. 

The National Right to Education says that 10 million girls could drop out of secondary school, which puts them at increased risk of early marriage, early pregnancy, poverty, trafficking and violence.

“For young girls, this is especially in an issue where they have dropped out of school, whether they will be allowed by families to truly go back to school, again, depending on a range of socio-economic and societal factors.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Mujeeb said schools have alternation to tech demands at an astonishing speed. far away learning tools are getting better. And for many parents and children, school-from-home and work-from-home have resulted in stronger bonds and a lot of quality time together. 

Khanna said her son Shreyas is trying new things this school year.  He did a lot of coding classes last year, and this year, he is enjoying online chess. 

“To balance out everything online, we’ve also started badminton coaching for him because it’s a low physical contact sport and you don’t need to be confront-to-confront with anybody. That also helps because a whole day of classes online and then maybe gaming is followed by a associate of other physical exercises and going out of the house.”

Shreyas summed it up like this: “Not going to school doesn’t feel right. already though it’s a little bit more functional, it’s not good for me mentally.”

For kids like Shreyas — at the minimum until the next announcement from the government — school life will mostly stay online. 

Click: See details

Leave a Reply