By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Oct. 12: Schools have begun reopening in various parts of the country and the government has also given the go-ahead for educational institutions to hold postponed exams. But parents have mixed feelings about this.
The prospect of sending their children to school while the pandemic rages on has mothers and fathers concerned. On the one hand, they want their wards’ education to resume after a gap of nearly six months but on the other, the possibility of kids contracting the coronavirus is too much to bear.
“There are no good options right now,” said Lisa Chhetri. Chhetri, 38, has two children – a daughter in fifth grade and a son in tenth and she shared her thoughts with The Rising Nepal. “Home is not a good study environment for children and I have been wanting schools to open. But now, I am worried. As a mother, how can I let my children be at risk of COVID-19,” she said.
Mahesh Sapkota, a 43-year-old father of a twelfth grader daughter, is also apprehensive. “It is too soon to reopen. Also, there is no health policy in place. Who should we trust to keep our children safe in classrooms?”
However, not all parents feel the same way. Many complain that online classes have not been effective and are worried about children falling behind in covering their curriculum.
“Schools are regimented and focused. Living rooms can never be classrooms,” said Madhu Shakya who has a son in eighth grade. “Hotels, restaurants and public vehicles have opened. So why not schools?” she questioned. Shakya, 40, is also a teacher.
Schools reopening would also provide a respite to working parents. Arpan and Reshma Shrestha have been taking alternate leaves from their offices to stay home and watch look after two daughters who are in grades two and five respectively. They believe that schools would allow working parents to focus on their work without worrying about their children.
“When children are at school, we don’t have to worry about them being alone or with strangers. We also won’t have to take leaves or come home early to attend to them,” Reshma said. However, Arpan is reluctant and would prefer to keep the kids home. “I won’t send the girls to school immediately after it reopens. I’ll watch the condition for a few weeks and only send them if proper precautions are taken.
Many countries have begun cautiously reopening schools and Nepal has a few examples to look at to formulate a health protocol for educational institutions. Closest to home, India is set to resume classes from October 15 and has issued a standard operating procedure to be followed before and after the opening of schools. Besides the usual distancing guidelines and mandatory masks and sanitizers, the procedure suggests reducing class duration, implementing odd-even rule for students’ attendance or running classes in multiple shifts. It also strongly advises against school bags for students from classes one to five and focusing only on complex and difficult-to-understand topics in schools.