India colleges cautiously reopen at the same time as COVID warnings mount | World information

From KRUTIKA PATHI, Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) – More students in India will be able to re-enter a classroom on Wednesday for the first time in nearly 18 months as authorities have given the green light to partially reopen more schools, despite concerns and indications from some parents Pick up that infections occur again.

Schools and colleges in at least six other states are gradually reopening, with health measures in place throughout September. In New Delhi, all employees must be vaccinated and class size is limited to 50% with staggered seating and disinfected desks.

In the capital, only students in grades nine to twelve are initially allowed to participate, but this is not compulsory. Some parents say they will withhold their children, including Nalini Chauhan, who lost her husband to the coronavirus last year.

“This trauma is there for us and that keeps me from going out. We don’t go to malls. We don’t go shopping. So why schools now? ”She said.

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Life in India has slowly returned to normal after the trauma of a sharp surge in coronavirus earlier this year. A number of states returned to face-to-face learning for some age groups last month.

New infections every day have fallen sharply since their peak of more than 400,000 in May. But India recorded 46,000 new cases on Saturday, the highest in nearly two months.

The uptrend has raised questions about reopening schools, with some warnings about it. Others say children are still at low risk for the virus and there is an urgent need to open schools to poorer students who do not have access to the internet, making online learning almost impossible.

“The simple answer is that there is never the right time to do anything during a pandemic,” said Jacob John, professor of community medicine at Christian Medical College in Vellore. “There is a risk, but life has to go on – and it doesn’t work without schools.”

Online education remains a privilege in India, where only one in four children has access to the internet and digital devices, according to UNICEF. The virtual classroom has deepened existing injustices and marked the haves from the haves, said Shavati Sharma Kukreja of the Central Square Foundation, a non-profit educational institution.

“While children with access to smartphones and laptops continued their learning with minimal interruption, the less privileged have effectively lost over a year of education,” she said.

A study by Azim Premji University published in January that surveyed over 16,000 children found a staggering learning loss. The researchers found that 92% of children had lost important language skills, such as the ability to describe a picture or write simple sentences. Likewise, 82% of the children surveyed lacked basic math skills that they had learned in the previous year.

For Giesem Raman, a teacher in a remote village in the northeast of the state of Manipur, such dates match what he has personally seen. The small elementary school he works at closed its doors for the second time in April. Since there is no possibility for online lessons, the lessons did not take place in any form.

When his students were briefly allowed back to school earlier this year, he said many had forgotten almost everything they had learned.

“It saddens me to see how these children’s futures may have been destroyed,” he said.

In Uttar Pradesh state, where school will reopen for first- to fifth-graders on Wednesday after older students were admitted last month, 6-year-old Kartik Sharma was excited to be wearing his new school uniform. His father, Prakash Sharma, said he was “happy” with the school’s virus logs.

“The school’s arrangements are first class,” he said.

Not everyone is that confident. Toshi Kishore Srivastava said she would wait before sending her son back to first grade.

“Doctors predict the third wave, and in that scenario sending children to schools could be harmful,” she said.

Associated press journalists Shonal Ganguly and Chonchui Ngashangva in New Delhi and Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow contributed to this.

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