As multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus continue to unspool, parents and educators are grappling once again with questions about how to educate young children without exposing them to the risk of infection. Even though schools are beginning to open, the possibility of a third wave and the emergence of Omicron has once again made parents anxious about the wellbeing of their children.
Rajesh Bhatia, Educationist and the man behind TreeHouse, a pioneering chain of online preschools, says, “In the ongoing uncertainty about how safe schools are especially for young children, it is hard to imagine preschoolers aged between 2 to 6 years or even 8 years, coming back to study in brick and mortar classrooms any time soon. For one, it is hard to impose pandemic protocols on young children and even a child with a runny nose or cough can create panic among teachers and parents. Transmissible diseases spread rapidly among children and parents are not going to risk them under the current circumstances especially when there is no vaccine widely available for kids. There is ZyCoV-D which too can be given to kids only above the age of 12.”
It is also hard, Rajesh Bhatia says, to maintain stringent hygiene standards around a group of children and any laxity or oversight in this regard can be potentially dangerous too.
Another factor to consider, Rajesh Bhatia says, is the health of the teachers themselves during a possible third wave. As Rajesh Bhatia says, “Most educators in such a situation would prefer to take online classes for the sake of their families. They would not like to take risks or contract an infection and pass it on to young children or old parents. During a pandemic, the organic connection between teachers and children also gets interrupted because of social distancing protocols and it makes sense to transition to online teaching where learning can unfold without any health risk or interruptions. Online classes will become normative for sure in 2022 because right now, they seem to be the only way forward.”