We all have been a part of this debate that whether physical classes in schools should continue or not during the ongoing pandemic. The Global Education Director of the World Bank Jaime Saavedra said there is no evidence to prove that the reopening of schools causes a hike in corona cases.
Saavedra and his team have been tracking and studying the impact of the pandemic on the education sector. He also said during this pandemic, the narrative which shows schools are not a safe place is a hoax. He said in the perspective of public policy to keep schools closed is not a scientific approach.
“There is no relation between opening schools and spread of coronavirus. There is no evidence linking the two and there is no justification now to keep the schools closed. Even if there are new waves of COVID-19, closing schools should be the last resort,” Saavedra said.
School Closure Is Not Justified
According to Saavedra, it does not make sense to open malls, markets, restaurants among other places and to close the schools during the pandemic. Under various simulations by the World Bank, the health risks of sending kids are not too high. Whereas, costing school closures in a pandemic is very high.
The education director also said we made some decisions at the beginning of the pandemic that were taken without any specific data, and closing school is one of them. Now we have the data, both about the impact of COVID-19 and closing schools during the pandemic. This data clearly shows that the virus hit badly in those countries where schools were closed like India. In addition, children are not in the high-risk zone in terms of fatality and Serious illness.
“During 2020, we were navigating in a sea of ignorance. We just didn’t know what is the best way of combating the pandemic and the immediate reaction of most countries in the world was let’s close schools. Time has passed since then and with evidence coming in from late 2020 and 2021, we have had several waves and there are several countries which have opened schools,” Saavedra said.
Talking about India, Saavedra said the impact of school closure in the country is immense.
“The learning poverty in India is expected to increase from 55 percent to 70 percent due to learning loss and more out-of-school children. Learning adjusted years of schooling is estimated to fall almost one full year of schooling while the average annual earnings might shrink in a pessimistic scenario by nine percent per student in future,” he said.
Learning poverty is the inability to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10. Saavedra added that in countries like India where inequalities in education were already high, this pandemic has widened the gap further.
As of now, schools are closed for millions of children, and for many they will never be open again.
“The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families, and the world’s economies,” Saavedra said.
During pandemic, the way of learning has become digital, but having access to digital devices and the internet is still a fantasy for many.
Furthermore, institutions had to reschedule and reorganize their academic methods in order to train their teachers and staff. As Saavedra pointed that many countries have kept their schools open and no major risk has been reported.
Education is crucial for shaping the future of a country. It ensures the development of a nation. India must consider revamping their policies towards education amid the pandemic.