The coronavirus has shut down schools around the world. As the country eases the lockdown, it must take into consideration an effective plan to reopen schools. No amount of helicopter parenting or video conferences can replace real teachers, or the social skills acquired from interacting with one another. The poorer countries suffer the most. Lessons over Zoom are of little use if your home lacks good a Wi-Fi connection or if you have to share a computer with three or four siblings.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, has mentioned in his letter written to The Economist his concern regarding the situation of schooling worldwide. He said that the virus will have a lasting, though dangerously invisible impact on children and their families. The longer this outbreak lasts, the greater the effect on children’s learning, behaviour, and emotional and social development. More than ever, UNICEF is calling for collective action among governments, donors, and practitioners to address the complex and varying mental and psychological needs of children and their families. This starts with listening to children’s concerns and prioritizing their needs both in the short and long term. When the pandemic began in January, parents everywhere were terrified. These parents of poorer children must go out to earn their day to day livelihood, leaving their children at home to fend for themselves regarding their means to access their learning material.

Power failure and internet availability are big problems in our villages and towns. It is a good initiative taken by the Sindh government to introduce a digital app. However, as of now, the teachers themselves are only beginning to understand and develop ways to utilize the app effectively, giving them little time to extend their knowledge onto the children they plan to teach. A prolonged closure of schools will have adverse effects on learning and in the long run, with the downturn of the economy, may leave a number of teachers without their jobs.

To manage and provide mobiles or laptops to children is quite difficult in the underdeveloped regions of Pakistan. Aside from that, there exists a huge difference in private and public-school syllabi. Luckily, every problem has a solution, so I am of the opinion that schools should begin to visualize ways to reopen in a safe manner. Some suggestions include splitting classes into halves, reducing their size so that social distancing protocols may be adhered to. There are also positives to ascertain from reports which show that children are less likely to transmit the virus, with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – the European Union’s public health agency – stating that child to adult transmission appears to be uncommon with the coronavirus.

FAWAD HUSSAIN SAMO,

Lahore.