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Virtual classes with strained eyes or schools with risks of community transmission. What will parents choose this pandemic?

No vaccine, no school. But how can we leave them couched gazing at the screens for hours: Parents of the school-going children concerned.

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With the Unlock-1, not much has changed in India. Cases still coming up, people still quarantined, fear of transmission, persistent, with more than half of the corporate-individuals, on screens, working diligently 9 to 5, of what they call “work from home” but what about the students? This pandemic has brought everything home and so did the education, no matter even if it’s effective in the long run or not.

Virtual platforms like Google classrooms, zoom and others have undoubtedly made things a lot easier when it comes to teaching in pandemic especially when the world has stopped functioning but, has put students into a lot of health crisis.

If the schools go back to normal functioning, every wrong can happen which the lockdown has been able to stop. Schools are the place of big interactive crowds of small children and the disease is a contagion in nature.

Through a recent report of countries that opt to resume the class, new cases have also simultaneously been reported along with it. E.g. France reported 70 new Coronavirus confirmed cases within a week with schools reopening and Israel with 220 positive cases amongst students and teachers have started to worry parents in India.

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These everyday data with no hopes of figures decreasing have started haunting parents as none of the two options feel feasible. They are in a continuous dilemma where online classes will have major destructive changes in their kid’s lifestyle and, if schools anytime resume teaching in the classrooms and it becomes their obligation to send their wards, it’s riskier as the concerns amongst the parents double up with the spikes of cases in numbers. Opening up of schools will defy the intentions of preventing the transmissions. And if none amongst the two, then the future of the child suffers and is at stake.

The survey that the HRD ministry conducted soon after India unlocked itself gave a spectacular report. With only 11 % of parents intending to send their wards back to school has now made things even clear that majority until the case goes zero will not be ready to risk their child’s life. Over two lakhs of them have even signed a petition demanding that schools shall be remained closed until it guarantees every child’s safety to each one of the parents with proper social distancing norms.

Opening of schools in July will be the worst decision by the government. It’s like playing with fire when we ought to douse it with full force. The current academic should continue in e-learning mode. If the schools claim that they doing a good job via virtual learning then why not continue it for the rest of the academic year.” The petition read with the signature of more than 2.5 lakh parents.

Many parents complained of ill-disciplined lives their children have been leading post lockdown with fewest possible efforts from many teachers to complete the syllabus on time to over-burdening them with tons of assignments that have led to insomnia and poor eyesight. Whereas, others pointed out that a lot of schools have been utilizing the digital platforms on a routine basis and fixed timetables which are making things better for their children and easy in a more conducive environment and existential crisis like these.

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With mixed responses coming in, parents are not able to decide what has to be done for the betterment of children. The situation needs a cautious step to be forwarded as children are the future generations and safety for them lies the first.

How effective is virtual learning over the traditional classroom or is it just opposite the case?

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Hosting an online class for adult students is not a big task but for toddlers? The struggle of making them learn with the physical presence is a big deal itself. Operating the system on digital platforms make it even difficult for teachers to equally monitor all and for parents to sit with their wards and making them repeat what the teacher has taught a minute setting aside their household chores.

Since Lockdown 1.0, a Delhi based teacher, Meghna Saxena hosts dozens of children nearly four in age, as she begins at 11 am after preparing herself for the session. “Much of the long hours class involves parents dragging the toddlers back to the computer screens and trying to get them interested in what’s happening.” She said in an interview with Quartz. 

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“These kids don’t understand half of our activities even in the real classroom and a teacher on a computer screen would hardly make sense to them.” As Meghna continues with the sore throat she had from shouting in the previous day’s lecture.

Many parents have complained of their child’s ill health and behavioural changes like mood swings, insomnia, and aggressiveness. Prolonged exposure to laptop screens too increased concerns amongst the parents whose child already wears prescription lenses.

Bad internet in many areas with it getting snapped because of other situations has also been a major issue with many.

Conclusion

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Now one thing that is quite clear in this pandemic situation is, whether it is reopening of schools or using online platforms for academic purposes, India is going to have a huge leap in its education sphere. On one hand, if we continue with the option of virtual classes, starting from primary education, we are entering into a completely new era of online education which was supposed to arrive, years later. Whereas, on the other hand, reopening of schools for physical attendance is likely to have a reduced student count since, most of the parents are reluctant to this idea. And this will drastically affect the literacy rate with a wider picture in the future.

Nevertheless, Virtual classes is the need in the hour if done more systematically and with the parent’s observation and feedback can help the students who are facing health concerns because of digitalization. With the implementation of the 20-20-20 rule, things can be ascertained in a slightly improved way. This means if you find yourself gazing at screens from the past 20 minutes, you should try to look away at something which is 20 feet distance from you for at least 20 seconds.

In crises like these where we cannot demand best but better, we all have to accept and live with the said available resources to us at disposal and try to make the best use of it.

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