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Bengal’s decision to reopen schools, colleges hailed widely

West Bengal government’s decision to reopen schools and colleges from November 15 has been widely hailed. Image used for representation.   | Photo Credit: AM FARUQUI

West Bengal’s decision to reopen colleges and schools from November 15 has been widely welcomed by teachers, students and doctors alike, with many saying the move should have come earlier and that these institutions should have a mechanism for early detection of COVID-19 cases.

“In the U.S. and Europe, the effect of closure of educational institutions has been extensively studied and they are of the opinion that [the long closure] has decreased students’ life expectancy and caused economic damage that will take about 70 years to set right. We have to remember the closure has been much longer in India and therefore the effect is going to be huge,” Dr. Arjun Dasgupta, one of Kolkata’s leading ENT specialists, told The Hindu.

Also Read: Schools can reopen in phases: ICMR

Cardiologist Dr. Koushik Chaki, a founding member of West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, said: “It’s a welcome move that could have come earlier. Studies had shifted to the online mode for nearly two years now and this was corroding the basis of education. While we had opened up everything else, including places for fun and frolic, we should have also opened schools and colleges, where it is easier to implement COVID-appropriate behaviour.”

Dr. Chaki said: “These institutions should have early-detection facilities in place, in case students show symptoms. Also, the psychological assessment of children returning to the offline mode after two years should be taken into consideration.”

Optimal trade-off

Talking about the challenges that educational institutions would face upon reopening, University of Calcutta Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee said the idea now was to “reconcile the imperatives of public health with the needs of public education”. “The State Disaster Management Authority is mandated to find the optimal trade-off in such cases of divergent imperatives, and as a State-aided public university, we shall go by the trade-off decision evolved by the mandated authority,” Prof. Chakravarti Banerjee said.

Anupama Maitra, assistant professor of English at Gour Mohan Sachin Mondal Mahavidyalaya, located on the outskirts of Kolkata, said: “There is no denying that we need to go back to in-person classes and that there is no substitute for it, but I also feel that it can’t be done at the cost of the lives of our children. There is no clear answer actually, and I am hoping that just as the Government is opening schools and colleges, it will also respond appropriately if the situation turns critical.”

Somasree Samanta, a first-year M.Sc. student of environmental science at the University of Calcutta, who spent much of the lockdown period in native Durgapur helping COVID-19 patients find beds and oxygen, said: “Students who did not have technology at their disposal — in other words poor students or those living in rural areas — had suffered the most during the lockdown. They will now be able to return to their classrooms.”

No replacement for long counselling

Another student, Aratrika Chaudhuri, who is pursuing Psychology (honours) at the city’s Bethune College, said: “There can be no replacement for the long counselling and discussions we had with our teachers face to face. I can’t wait to go back. I’ve also missed hanging out with friends, the dressing up and the winter adda at the college garden.”

Her elder sister Sritama Chaudhuri, an assistant professor of sociology at the city’s Asutosh College, said opening of schools and colleges with preventive measures in place was the “only choice left with us”. “With the increased rate of vaccination, we feel safer now. I am looking forward to this challenge and hoping that all students get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 8:32:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bengals-decision-to-reopen-schools-colleges-hailed-widely/article37178363.ece

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