Picture used for representational purpose only
MUMBAI: The state education department's proposal to reopen physical classes for the primary section is likely to be taken up in the cabinet meeting on Thursday.
The proposal has been cleared by the health department as well as the Covid-19 paediatric task force.
"There is no reason to delay opening schools for children from Class I," said Dr Suhas Prabhu, senior paediatrician who heads the state paediatric task force on Covid-19. Currently, there is no physical school for classes I to IV in rural areas and I to VII in urban areas.
No need to make vax must to start classes, says Task force
The pediatric task force has conveyed to the government that there is no need to make vaccination for under-18 a prerequisite for starting classes. The only caveat is that schools should take all the precautionary measures against Covid.
Education minister Varsha Gaikwad told TOI: “The chief minister told me four days ago that he will discuss the matter with me and then take a decision. If the CM attends the cabinet meeting on Thursday, we will speak to him. We have recommended the reopening of classes I to IV in rural areas and classes I to VII in urban areas. We will incorporate the suggestions from the task force concerning the health and safety of the students that need to be adhered to for the reopening.”
Meanwhile, health minister Rajesh Tope said the proposal is likely to be taken up in the cabinet meeting on Thursday. “We will also urge parents to allow their children to go to school as all the safety measures are in place. Meanwhile, we are also following up with the Centre regarding starting vaccination for kids,” said Tope.
Dr Suhas Prabhu, who heads the state government pediatric task force on Covid-19, said parents should not wait for the third wave or vaccination before letting schools start. “I have seen children who have put on 15kg during the pandemic, some who are depressed or have sleep disorders. We need to get the economic and education cycle back on track so that people, including children, can lead normal lives,” he said.
Another pediatric task force member, Dr Vijay Yewale, said it has already been communicated to the government that vaccination is not a prerequisite for opening schools for primary classes from I to VII. There has been a lot of debate on the need for vaccination for children; children are likely to stay asymptomatic during Covid infection or get a mild infection. Several western nations, though, have begun vaccinating children over five years of age, but the Indian government hasn’t yet, despite clearing vaccines for pediatric use.
“World Health Organisation officials as well as local experts have said that India may not see a third wave. Even if it does, schools can be closed again. But children need social interactions with peers. Studying and playing with the iPad was a stopgap arrangement that shouldn’t be prolonged further for both physical as well as mental health of our children,” said Dr Prabhu.
Regarding parents who want to wait for vaccination before sending children to school, he said pediatric vaccination may take a minimum of six months.
“Even if we start vaccinating immediately, given the 84-day gap between shots, it will take six months or more to vaccinate children. Should they then continue to sit at home for that duration? Let’s not waste another academic year,” he added.
(With Umesh Isalkar & Ardhra Nair in Pune)