Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The Centre is planning to reopen schools with a set of national guidelines. These are likely to recommend specifics such as minimum vaccination coverage for teachers and other staff and a phase-wise plan to begin in-person classes.
For this purpose, the Union health ministry is having discussions with the education ministry and ICMR. “As of now, the decision to open schools in phases has been left to states, but some states have reached out to us seeking guidance on parameters before deciding to start classes,” a source said.
The government is working on the guidelines, he said, and will share it with states soon. The development comes even as WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, two days back, made an appeal for reopening schools amid the pandemic, saying that its greatest impact is the indirect effect on education by shutting down schools almost around the world.
“The impact on children’s mental, physical and cognitive well-being will last a long time. School openings must be prioritised with distancing, masking, avoiding indoor singing and gatherings, hand hygiene and vaccination of all adults,” she had said.
Government authorities such as ICMR director general Balram Bhargava and AIIMS, Delhi, director Randeep Guleria, have batted for opening for schools in a planned manner. Bhargava had said that states should consider opening schools in districts with under 5% positivity rate, also reckoning that it may be better to allow primary kids to attend in-person classes, as younger kids are less susceptible to develop serious Covid-19 disease.
They, however, added that vaccination of teachers and other staff may be necessary before schools are opened. Given that a small percentage of teachers have been vaccinated so far, the Centre has sought the help of private hospitals to provide them free vaccines under the CSR funding. As of now, Punjab, Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh and a few others have cautiously allowed in -person classes in schools.