Let younger kids visit school for recreational activities till classes start: Parents in Delhi write to Kejriwal, L-G

The 66 signatories stated that apart from learning loss, extended school closure is also culminating in health problems among children including rickets, eyesight issues, decreased attention span, disrupted sleep routines, anxiety, depression, mood swings and aggression

More than 60 parents of primary and middle school children in Delhi have written to members of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), requesting that young students be permitted to visit at least once a week for educational and recreational activities until schools reopen for them.

The DDMA in a meeting on September 29 had decided that schools may be allowed to reopen for children in nursery to Class VIII only after the festive season, which is after November 4 when Diwali will be celebrated. They had been allowed to reopen for classes IX-XII from September 1.

In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Health Minister Satyendar Jain, and DCPCR Chairperson Anurag Kundu, the 66 parents have requested that until schools reopen for them, children up to class VIII be permitted to visit schools on a voluntary basis at least once a week to participate in sports, music, performing arts and other activities in well-ventilated areas, such as outdoor spaces.

“According to UNICEF, schools should be the first to open and the last to close. However, everything else is otherwise open and the DDMA has now decided to wait for festive gatherings to conclude before considering whether to open schools for classes VI to VIII. There is no mention of timelines for classes below VI. We appreciate the DDMA’s concern for the safety of our children. However, we are also witnessing adverse effects of long-term school closures… Such limited relief for our youngest children is critical and urgently needed to mitigate the physical and mental health problems they have been enduring for 1.5 years (the third longest school closure in the world behind Uganda and Nepal),” it read.

Pointing out that under the current restrictions “children are free to roam anywhere except schools”, the signatories – which include several lawyers, university teachers and policy researchers – stated that apart from learning loss, the extended school closure is also culminating in health problems among children including rickets, eyesight issues, decreased attention span, disrupted sleep routines, anxiety, depression, mood swings and aggression.

They also stated that for primary school children, long-term absence of social play could potentially lead to social isolation, loneliness and “serious developmental issues”.

Said lawyer Tanya Aggarwal, one of the signatories, “My son is almost six years old and has changed two grades online since the onset of the pandemic. Since he doesn’t have a sibling, he is around adults all the time though we are making an effort to make him meet a few kids. He is now hesitant and afraid of new things. Online learning is like an instructional video that doesn’t allow him to interact with teachers and what used to be his friends. There is no scope for small talk and giggling together. As a parent with resources, I don’t worry so much about a learning gap and I can try to recreate that environment to some extent but there are millions of kids who cannot have that.”

“At his age, interaction with his peers is important to teach him how to negotiate with people – like waiting their turn, sharing,” she added.

Other signatories include policy researcher Yamini Aiyar, lawyers Dharini Mathur, Prashant Gupta and Satvik Varma, and doctors Dr Rajat Jain, Dr Ananta Khurana, Dr Saphalta Baghmar and Dr Sajal Ajmani.

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