As the number of daily cases of COVID-19 has been declining recently, schools across the country are planning to resume physical classes. Some schools have already reopened for the physical presence of their students. A few days back, the federal government had formally asked the local governments to take stock of ground situation about COVID-9 and come up with appropriate decision on their own on resuming classes. Meanwhile, member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, including Nepal, made a resolution to work towards making every school a health promoting school. The member states also committed to safe school operations during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The educational institutions across the country had closed for indefinite period for the first time in the third week of March, 2020 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. After the number of COVID-19 cases went down outstandingly, the schools were reopened in January 2021 after almost nine months of the closure. The nationwide lockdown was imposed again in last April and the educational institutions were also closed after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country. The government has recently eased the lockdown in every sector except for the educational institutions where, by their nature, large number of gatherings takes place. In absence of adequate safety measures, these places can become hotspot for the spread of the virus. The latest media reports say that the local governments are preparing to reopen the schools for physical classes. But it has to be borne in mind that careless physical mixing up can accelerate the virus spread again.
Owing to the persistent pandemic, school children are compelled to confine themselves in their homes and continue learning through online classes for more than 16 months. As a result, they are facing physical isolation and psychological problems. They are not able to meet their classmates and teachers physically and interact with them. Their extra-curricular activities have been limited notably. So, physical classes should resume but with top caution for health safety. Keeping the students well-protected from the infection of COVID-19 should be the top priority for school administrations, teachers and parents alike. The guardians need to send their children to schools by fully adhering to the health protocols recommended by the medical experts. This rule should apply to all the teachers, administration and other staffs working in the institutions. Cafeterias and kitchen operating within these places should also be following the safety rules.
The cases had started to subside around September-October in the first wave of COVID-19. They were in downward trend during the winter. The second wave started to emerge in India in the post-winter season. In absence of control in the trans-border movement of people, the second wave caused heavy toll in Nepal, too. Though the cases are going down currently, we cannot rule out the virus resurgence again. Schools should be reopened after making evaluation of the situation and the classes should be halted in case infections start to spread again. We have to ensure that educational institutions remain a health safe zone. We must follow the safety protocol of maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and applying sanitizers. Educational institutions are places where aware and educated people work. They should set an example in the fight against coronavirus.