Even Without COVID-19, Schools May Not Open In India

There are many things in life that go beyond logic and common sense. In India, we have one such event unfolding right now. Schools were shut down in March 2020 as a precautionary measure for COVID-19. Now, though it has become crystal clear that India has a sole distinction, in the entire world, of a single wave of COVID-19, with the peak coming 5 months back, schools continue to remain closed even now. It seems that even without COVID-19, schools may not open in India.

I know that schools will surely open, sometime in future. However, why the schools remain closed, as on date, is beyond me. Even more baffling is the complete silence of all the stake-holders on the continued closure of schools. Everyone is aware that everything is open in India but the schools and THAT is acceptable to all. No discussion, no questions raised, utter conformity.

What could be the reasons for this fact-of-life behaviour?

The Indian Government

Ministry of Education should be renamed Ministry of Examinations. This one statement shows the sole priority of the Indian Government. It has come up with guidelines and guidelines to open schools; and no action when the schools do not open.

The Indian Government seems to think that if anything goes wrong in the case of children, the Indian electorate will be unforgiving. Why take the unnecessary risk of getting into action mode? Anyways, the priority of Indian parents is NEET/JEE, so we shall conduct that, nonetheless. Rest is business as usual, rather no business at all.

The Indian Parents

There is no discussion on whether online education is delivering, the child is learning, all the children are benefiting – why bother? What matters is that our children go on to the next grade at the end of the year. Across the spectrum of Indian economic and social order, this seems to be the only driving factor.

The Private Schools

2020 might, in fact, turn out to be the most profitable year in history. Collect the fees from the parents. Dock the salaries of the teachers. Remove the support staff. Bare minimum establishment costs. Why bother about the Government protocols to open the schools when the charade of online learning has such a huge payback?

At worst, 5-10% of the parents will be unable to pay the fees. Rest all of them will, of course, pay. Which Indian parent can suffer the ignominy of the school admission of his/her child revoked?

The Government Schools

Even before COVID-19, Pratham ASER surveys showed the dismal learning outcomes of the Government schools. Why bother needlessly during the pandemic, or even after? Rather at all.

The Government School Teachers

The salary continues to get paid, regardless. What’s the nuisance going on about student’s learning?

The Private School Teachers

The threat from the school management of dismissal from the job looms large. Better to remain silent, take the salary whatever is getting paid and get on with the job of online teaching. Anyways, distant-teaching is not any different than in-person teaching. It was a monologue then, it is a monologue now, with the extra benefit of no need to check on the student’s attention.

Moreover, some parents have opted for private tuitions, so the net income has increased. Let the school closure continue.

The Indian Media

The headline-hunters work best from the confines of the TV studio/newsrooms. Reporting from the ground-up is long forgotten. The press releases, the politician’s quotes, tweets are the news.

What’s the fuss about school opening or closures? It is not a newsworthy item. Forget it.

The Indian Society

Once the children are enrolled in schools, they are learning, whether it is in school or online. The school report card at the end of the year is the holy truth, rest all is a myth. So, no questions asked.

Actually, when we were in school ourselves, we were taught to toe the line and not ask questions. It holds us in good stead even now. See for yourself.

The Social Scientists/Experts/Researchers

Getting into the cross-hairs of the mighty Indian Government and the equally powerful school lobby is a taboo. Repeat after me, whatever they do is right.

The Children

Online learning is no fun. For that matter, even the schools were no fun either. Cannot figure out what is worse. Anyways, let me continue my screen time. It is educational, everybody agrees now.

Why would not schools open?

I know the situation is not bad as I have made it out to be. There are lots of diligent teachers and hard-working students that are trying their level best to ensure the efficacy of online learning. I do not mean any disrespect to them. But, it is a different matter for the other actors mentioned above.

If the opening of schools is such a big pain-point, why not prioritize teachers and the support staff in vaccination? We do not do that also, and will not open schools also. There doesn’t seem to be a perceptible difference with schools closed that warrants urgency/an action plan.

Why would you think the schools have STILL not opened in India, with COVID-19 vanishing in a single wave and the approval of Covishield and Covaxin?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Reopen Schools And Colleges. Lockdown Everything Non-Essential.

The Government of India has opened up everything in COVID-19 Unlock, except for schools and colleges. The Central Government, which presided over all the aspects of Unlock, has handed over the decision-making for reopening of schools and colleges to the State Governments. They, in turn, are dragging their feet over how and when to reopen schools and colleges.

From the peak of 95,000 + cases, the current daily case-load has dropped below 50,000 cases. Yet, few Governments have dared to reopen schools and colleges. The second wave of COVID-19 infections is expected sometime after Diwali. If schools and colleges do not reopen, now, even when the cases are down by 50% from the peak, reopening has no chance to happen when the cases soar again.

This would mean that almost the entire academic year would be lost for the students in terms of not able to attend schools and colleges for in-person teaching. In such a grim scenario, what could be the option to salvage the situation? Is it possible to ensure that a generation of students does not miss out on the essential learning outcome of an entire year?

I propose: Reopen Schools and Colleges. Lockdown Everything Non-Essential.

The detractors will say that it is a silly/ridiculous/impractical suggestion with no saving grace. As a parent, a citizen and a human being, I am convinced about the feasibility of my suggestion. I argue as given below to support my proposition.

Is Education Essential or Non-Essential?

In the Unlock, the Government of India started reopening essential services in decreasing order of priority. Hence, the iterations of Unlock 1.0 to 5.0. Now, with everything else open and only schools and colleges remaining closed, how is the Central Government viewing the education? Is it essential or non-essential? Surely, it cannot be later.

Let us compare the criticality of education vis-a-vis other sectors already reopened. Restaurants, malls, hotels, theatres, non-essential shops like garments, electronics etc. are open. The public gatherings of all the denominations are allowed. The Bihar state election too got conducted in the middle of the pandemic. How would you rate the importance of all these as compared to education?

In fact, the logic of essential/non-essential can be flipped to gauge the significance of education. The Government considers the education to be of the utmost consequence, that it does not even consider to reopen schools and colleges. By keeping them shut, the Government is admitting that education is the most valued aspect for the country and it cannot be risked.

Everybody agrees that education is vital for the future of the country. Then, why not walk the talk?

Adverse Impact on Economy/Jobs

The critics of the suggestion to shut down everything non-essential, to reopen schools and colleges, will say that the economy will be devastated. They will say that an enormous number of jobs will be lost. They will say that the GDP will contract, the share-market will collapse, the investors’ will lose confidence in the country etc.

Look at the actual picture, as on date. Share-market has regained all the 2020 losses and is inching northwards. The forex reserves of the country are at a record high. The GST collections have crossed the psychological 1 lac crore mark in October. Even with most of Q1 2020-21 lost in a lockdown, the GDP contraction was limited to 24%. As per Government projections, it will turn positive soon.

The Government has announced the Atmanirbhar Bharat package amounting to 10% of the GDP. The RBI has drastically reduced the interest rates. EMI moratorium has been backed up with interest waiver. The Government is so flush with funds; it is going around paying Diwali bonus. With so much going for the economy, it can surely absorb the shock of a few months.

Everybody will agree that the economic losses are transient and the economy will recover, as it has done already. More so, the Government has stepped in to support livelihoods and will keep doing, as the situation demands. However, the learning outcome loss for students cannot be bridged. It is gone forever unless there is a zero academic year.

Nobody Wants a Zero Academic Year

Ramesh Pokhriyal has already said that the Government will not allow a zero academic year. He is right. Not just the Government, the schools and colleges, the parents and most of all, the students do not deserve a zero academic year. Now, if that is out of the question, what should be done about ensuring the learning outcome for all the students?

Please keep out the charade of online learning from the discussion. If quality education can be had from watching the screens, let’s dismantle the schools and colleges. Has online learning ensured that no child is left behind? Is access to online learning been fair and equitable? Has the Government made even any effort in this direction?

BTW, if online learning from home is so effective, the JEE/NEET should have been conducted with students at home. Why should the exams be away from home when the study is fine being at home? The Government would say that this is silly/absurd/impractical. If that is so, so is the step to not own up to reopen schools and colleges.

Everybody will agree that the Government is treating physical attendance in schools and colleges arbitrarily, as it suits its objectives.

Reopen Schools and Colleges

The children have the right to proper education. It is dreadful to rob the children of their chance to excel in future. To make matters worse, the children do not even know what they are losing out on. For sure, no parent would want to see their children get promoted irrespective of the learning outcome.

Is it right to focus on today’s economic gain at the cost of tomorrow’s knowledge loss?

It is time to get our priorities right. Let’s reopen schools and colleges. Lockdown everything non-essential.

PS: European countries did precisely this. In their first COVID-19 lockdown, they started unlocking with educational institutions. Now, in their second lockdown, they are shutting down the rest, but not educational institutions. They know that education is essential and they walk the talk; not shy away unlike our Government and us.

Reopening Of Schools Is The Final Frontier In India’s COVID-19 Unlock

Minister of Education, Ramesh Pokhriyal, announced on 10th August 2020 that there shall be no zero academic year for Indian students. However, he did not divulge any detail/plan for the reopening of schools. The Central Government covered all the sectors in COVID-19 Unlock but did not make a single statement about the reopening of schools – how and when, the nitty-gritty details.

Finally, on 5th October 2020, almost 2 months after the Minister’s proclamation, Union Education Ministry issued guidelines about the reopening of schools. Given the high stakes of the learning and education for the nation’s future citizens, in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, there were high expectations from the Government.

A parent would expect that the Government will take concrete steps in creating a safe and protected environment for the country’s children when they resume their physical schooling. A parent would expect that the guidelines will evoke trust and conviction about sending their wards to schools. In short, parents expected an assurance that their children shall receive the utmost care and caution.

So, what do the guidelines convey?

Only Exams Matter

As per the guidelines, students can attend schools only with the written consent of parents. This is brilliant, outright exceptional. With the COVID-19 cases at its peak, this is the same Government that pushed the students to give JEE and NEET entrance exams. The students protested, the parents objected but the Government would have none of it.

The Government made noises about the future of students at stake. The Supreme Court concurred. Why did the thought of “parental consent” not occur to the Government for these entrance exams? How are schools and exams different to warrant dissimilar treatment? How can the Government have different yard-sticks for similar contexts?

The Government might say that exams are one-off and schools are daily. So, does it imply that one-off exam/stress/travel/risk does not entail parental concern? Does it mean that parents do not bother/care for the well-being of their children when they go out to give exams?

In short, the Government considers itself empowered to take decisions on behalf of parents and students for entrance exams. However, when it comes to daily attendance in schools, it brings up the charade of “parental consent” being supreme.

Is this hypocrisy/incoherence or a simple fact that it is only the entrance exams that matter in the Indian educational system, the rest is optional. In this case, “parental consent” is not a guideline at all, it is a pretence. Irrespective of a student attending the school or not, s/he will be forced to give NEET and JEE, next year.

The Central Government Would Not Take Any Responsibility

For every Unlock measure, the Central Government has been the final authority. It decides, announces and ensures that everyone, including the opposition-led States follow the suit. However, when it has boiled down to the reopening of schools, surprise, surprise, it has left the final decision to the respective State Governments. It is a bit more than the sovereignty of exams that is driving the Central Government in its decision-making of reopening of schools.

This is the authoritarian Government of a one-man show. It does not trust any meaningful decision-making to even his Cabinet Ministers. It leaves no stone unturned to make everyone fall in line for its one size fits all approach. And, now suddenly, this control freak Government cedes control of the decision on reopening of schools. What’s going on?

Have you gone through the guidelines on the reopening of schools? None of them, repeat, none of them has any deliverable listed against the name of the Central Government. Apart from handing down far-fetched and absurd directives, it does not have any other tasks. No responsibility, no onus, no accountability.

The Central Government seems to have learnt from its utter failure of dealing with migrant workers’ plight during the lock-down. It has understood that it has no clue about the ground situation and it has no bandwidth to influence the outcome/solution of the problem. Better to stay away. This is showing up in the most unlikely field: reopening of schools.

If anything goes wrong, which it might as well, why to come in the firing line of parents? Why bear the brunt of the irate parents? Leave everything to the States and schools. In case of an outbreak, play the blame-game of not adhering to the guidelines, which are beyond anyone to follow.

Reopening of schools is the final frontier

In nutshell, all of us know that Indians will bear all the pain when it comes to their progeny. We live and die to better the prospects of our offspring. There is no wrath worse than that of the offended parent. So, better not deal with them for a problem that you cannot solve but can only theorize. Yes, the promise of a career of an engineer/doctor matter even more, so entrance tests are acceptable.

Nobody knows this better than Narendra Modi. Hence, reopening of schools is and shall remain the final frontier in India’s COVID-19 Unlock; no matter everything else has been unlocked.

Just that, this is neither going to help the future of Indian children in any manner by impacting their learning and education in a positive manner nor the state of the Indian economy.

Will anyone take the responsibility of educating India’s children, equitably and fairly, by owning up reopening of schools?

Lockdown Friends And Experiences For Our Children

India is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Irrespective of the Government’s lockdown/unlock, one aspect of the response remains steadfastly constant – children remain locked up in their houses, but for entrance tests. In such a scenario, what can be lockdown friends and experiences for children?

The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus spreads predominantly in closed surroundings with poor ventilation. The outdoors has the least risk in spreading infections. The countries that have reopened have done so with outdoor lung spaces i.e. the parks as a first candidate to reopen. However, in India, the children parks remain in shut down mode, they would be the last to open.

The scientific evidence shows that children are at the least risk of COVID-19 infections. Yes, they can spread it to the adults, a risky proposition. In India, the Government lockdown has clubbed the children < 10 years with elderly > 65 years, who are at the maximum risk and have ordered them to remain at home ever since.

The Government refuses to understand that the children not getting fresh air and sunlight, a chance to play, social interaction opportunities also represent a risk in itself. In addition, kids get bombarded with online education, in a like-to-like replica of school time-table but on a screen. It is a tough time to be children these days in India.

Fortunately, for our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters, they are saved from the perils of online learning. The simple reason being, they are not enrolled in a school, yet. However, not being allowed to venture outside, an anchor to our lives could have played havoc to their young minds. But it is not to be. Courtesy their lockdown friends and experiences.

A stray cat and her kittens

Within a week of the starting of the lockdown, a stray cat descended on our home. The cat was not at all afraid of us. She kept demanding food, which when given to her, she graciously decided to adopt our family and home.

The girls were excited beyond limits. They suddenly found themselves to be the proud owner of a pet cat. They named her Licky; the reason being she licked the milk. The girls’ day started with Licky and ended with Licky.  They ran around her, patted her, fed her, sang songs for her; Licky basked in the attention.

The girls were over the moon when Licky gave birth to two kittens. Girls gave nonstop commentary on what the kittens were doing, how they were growing, how Licky was tending to her litter. Then, the lightning struck. Licky left the house with her kittens. The girls were crestfallen.

After 3 days, Licky resurfaced, terribly hurt and without her kittens. We got to know that the kittens were on our neighbour’s terrace. Licky had abandoned them, stopped eating food and died. We brought the kittens home, the girls were again over-joyed. We fed the kittens every 3-4 hours, stimulated to pee and poop and kept warm. The girls were learning how to tend to their young pets.

Throughout, the kittens kept looking for their mother. One of them died after a couple of weeks. We realized that a kitten should not be raised single. A kind acquaintance helped us find a foster home for the single kitten and we gave him up for his good. It broke the girls’ hearts, but they understood.

This entire episode lasted for about four months. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the girls, the highs of delight to the lows of sorrow. Till this date, they remember Licky and the two kittens with warm fondness. They have also come to learn that in life, nothing is forever. We lose someone close to us, but the remembrance of the time spent together is a joy in itself.

Shiva and Rakesh

Shiva was my wife’s colleague (was, because Dirty Feet has had to temporarily shut down due to COVID-19). He stays in the office. Rakesh is Shiva’s friend, who came for a day to the office on Janta Curfew and then got stuck due to the lockdown. They come to our home daily for meals. Rakesh has since left, Shiva continues to be there.

The girls have become very fond of both the guys. They have become their play-mates for the age-less games and endless talks. It is to the credit of Shiva and Rakesh that though they are in their early 20’s they play with amazing ease with the six-year-olds. They have made the girls so comfortable that they think that it is absolutely normal for kids of their age to play with 20+ year olds.

Yes, the children should play with children. But, that has almost never happened with our daughters. Whenever we go to any outdoor places/parks, children of any age are rarely present. In the neighbourhood even under normal circumstances, children hardly come out for playing. Lockdown has become a blessing that they have actually got play-mates, who have the ability to bring out their innate child when playing.

Plants, bugs and birds

Every walk with the girls is an opportunity for a nature walk. With the lockdown, that is also ruled out. My wife is extremely particular about the exposure to nature for our daughters. We have realized that plants are friends of a lifetime for children. So, she put the ample space in the front yard of the house to good use by getting pots and doing gardening.

The girls have a great time mixing soil with coco-peat, putting seeds, watering and seeing the blossoming of their sweat. The plants (a majority of them veggies) also bring with them a fair share of butterflies and bugs. A bulbul tried making a nest in the gourd creeping around but left mid-way after incessant snooping by the girls.

Hoping that the girls and we further grow our small kitchen garden even after the lockdown ends. It takes a lot of time and efforts to keep up with the gardening, but raising eco-aware children are a just reward. There is no other activity/experience with a bigger multiplier effect than nurturing nature-friendly kids. It does good to them, Mother Earth and everybody’s future.

Street Vendors

We stay on the ground floor of an independent house in the by-lanes of a busy neighbourhood (even now!). Barring the most strict phase of the lockdown (earliest 2 weeks), the area is thronged by 10-12 street vendors during the day. This turned out to be a window to social interaction for our daughters and us.

In the scorching summer of April, May and June, we taught the girls to stop each street vendor on the road and ask, if they wanted water. It might look like a poor cousin to regular social interactions, which lockdown has left no occasion for. But, it did a lot of good to build empathy and caring in our children.

The girls asked the reasons for the vendors to be on the road even during severe heat and lockdown, what happens when they get tired etc. We, of course, did not have answers to all their queries. It is a learning curve for all of us.

Lockdown friends and experiences

The above are the lockdown friends and experiences that helped maintain our sanity during the lockdown.

As I write this, I realize that irrespective of the lockdown, they could have become a part of our lives, and enriched our being. Just that, we may not have allowed it to be.

What have been your lockdown friends and experiences?

Government Says No Zero Academic Year. But What’s And Where’s The Plan To Reopen Schools & Colleges?

India has been in the state of health emergency since March 2020. The Government’s response has lurched from half-baked lockdown to various stages of unlock. However, one aspect has remained constant throughout. The educational institutes of all hues remain shut. The Government has steadfastly maintained that the safety of children is the first priority.

This measure is, of course, very well received by the parents. Now, the next step for parents is to worry about the education of their children. Online education has been going on in various forms, but it cannot be expected to replace the in-person teaching of schools & colleges. The parents are anxious that the children have no learning loss and do not miss out on their study.

To allay this fear, the Government of India has proclaimed “The Centre will not allow this to be a “zero academic year” without any teaching or examinations.” On 10th August 2020, Ramesh Pokhriyal said “A decision on physical reopening of schools & colleges is likely within 10-15 days”. To quote the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development “This is appreciable”.

On 8th June 2020, Union School Education Secretary Anita Karwal said “The Centre was framing guide-lines for safe reopening of schools. Guidelines are likely to include rigorous health screening and quarantine protocols, hygiene measures, and staggered attendance for students allowing for blended learning from classrooms and home”.

What’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The Government’s announcements are well-intentioned. However, seemingly, they are missing out on the detailing. More than 15 days have passed since the Minister’s remarks, but there is no further discussion on dates to reopen schools & colleges. More than two and half months have passed since the Secretary’s remarks, but no guide-lines have been published by the Government to reopen schools & colleges.

This is baffling. The schools & colleges cannot reopen from the next day of the reopening announcement. They need the time to train the teachers and the support staff, they need the time to improve on the school infrastructure; they need the time to prepare for the reworked academic calendar. All these preparations require resources, time and money.

The diverse universe of schools & colleges operates on different band-widths and capabilities. Some of them may readily be able to make the required changes. Many of them may require hand-holding in various stages of the proposed changes. Few of them may require additional manpower and financial support to help them navigate the changes.

All the above will become clear only when the purported plan by the Government shows up, which continues to be under wraps.

What to do when infections happen?

Once the schools & colleges reopen, the few students/teachers/support staff will inevitably get infected with COVID-19. What’s supposed to be the threshold for the educational institute to continue its operations and when should it shut down? If required to shut down, what should be the contingency plan? When to reopen next? What happens if again the infections soar?

Rather, the first step to reopen schools & colleges would be to define the acceptable level of infections and the rate of spread in the ward/locality/geographical unit. In the Indian context, the students are spread all across the city/state/country and not limited to a neighbourhood. A large number of students stay away from their families to pursue their education. How do deal with the infections and the treatment in such a scenario?

Seemingly unrelated but a relevant aspect of handling infections with the reopening is to decide on the state of other activities. Should the functioning of religious places/restaurants/non-essential travel etc be curbed to reduce the chances of infections for educational institutions? COVID-19 is making us prioritize. Till now, we have prioritized safety of children. Now, to prioritize the education, if something else needs to be stepped down, so be it.

All these will be up for debate only when the Government shows what it has thought on the subject.

The parents, teachers, support staff are all stake-holders

The Government keeps mentioning about the educational institutions as a single entity. The focus on management is vital as they are responsible for the decision-making of their organizations and their buy-in is a must for the reopening. They are the ones who would be ensuring that the Government guide-lines are adhered to. But, they are not the only ones.

None work in isolation in today’s inter-connected world. Depending on the Government guide-lines, every parent needs to make their planning and decisions. Risk acceptance levels vary for different people. Some may perceive the Government’s steps to be unsafe, may want to hold back their wards and they should have equal right to do so.

Teachers and support staff are extremely important stakeholders in the entire process of reopening. Somehow, they lack opinion and seem to be taken for granted. They are the bread-winners for their families and would be worried about what happens to them if they get infected with COVID-19. An insurance and treatment plan for them would give them confidence about resumption.

Again, no clarity for any of the stake-holders. Rather, it does not seem that the Government is even contemplating their participation in the decision-making process.

No Zero Academic Year

No Zero Academic Year is a wish for every parent, student and all the other stakeholders too. The Government is desperate for a No Zero Academic Year, presumably to keep all the constituents happy, but it is not showing equal desperation in coming up with inputs and strategies to achieve the desired output. To repeat, what’s and where’s the plan to reopen schools & colleges?

The seamless transition to the Government guide-lines to reopen schools & colleges is not going to happen over-night. It is going to require lots of preparations, moving back and forth, also to ensure that the weakest of them do not fall through the sieve. The ball will start rolling only when the Government makes its plan public. The sooner, the better.

Wish the Government shows the same urgency for the plan to reopen schools & colleges as conducting JEE/NEET and college final year exams.

COVID-19: A Helpless Parent, JEE/NEET/UGC And An Indifferent Government

I am a parent in India. Like every other parent, I try to keep my children safe and away from danger. This, seemingly an innocuous task, has turned out to be an onerous one beyond my capabilities. I do not know what to blame and how to take corrective measures in this unasked for situation. I just know that this involves my children, the centre of my life. They are at risk for no fault of them and I am just a helpless parent; who cannot do a thing to help them in any manner.

India’s tryst with coronavirus started in March 2020. The Prime Minister ordered a national lockdown in the last week of March 2020. The cases were in three digits, nationally, at that time. We were told to stay home, stay safe. Like every other citizen, I scared my family, children and parents to stay at home for their well-being and safety.

On the education front, the Government shut down all the schools and colleges. The exams were going on at the time of announcing the lockdown; all of them got postponed citing the safety of the students. Later, the board exams, CBSE, ICSE, States, got cancelled. There was a consistency in messaging – the children’s safety is paramount.

And now, suddenly, with the coronavirus cases hovering above 60 k on a daily basis and cumulative cases in excess of 31 lacs, the children are being asked to come out to give entrance tests and final year college exams. The Supreme Court has also ruled that NEET and JEE won’t be postponed. I don’t suppose their judgement will be any different in the UGC case.

No improvement, only deterioration

What has changed from March/April 2020 to August/September 2020 for a complete reversal of stance? In March/April 2020, I told my children that they should stay at home. In August/September 2020, I am expected to tell my children that they can go out to write exams. Leave aside my loss of credibility in front of my children, how do I allay their fears about their own lives?

Please get this straight. The children, no matter their age, are human beings in their own regard. They understand the goings-on around them. They comprehend that adults are fixated on a certain issue and that their parents have deviated from a normal life-style to keep everyone in the family safe. And, now, with the risks increased exponentially, why should they put their lives at risk?

There has to be perceptible progress in the circumstances to warrant a different decision. Here, we have none. Rather, the state of affairs is worsening. 1000+ people are dying daily due to Covid-19. The adults are not able to think beyond their lives and livelihoods, and we expect the children to think nothing beyond their exams!

Live with the virus, not die from the virus

The Government says that we need to learn to live with the coronavirus. The Supreme Court has said “COVID may continue for a year more. Are you going to wait for another year? Do you know what is the loss to the country and the career peril to the students?”

We signed up as parents to raise healthy children and not COVID warriors. The soldiers know that they might have to sacrifice their lives to protect their motherland. The doctors know that they carry a professional risk when they treat their patients with infectious disease. But children? What have they done to deserve a risk to their lives? They are not even adults. On what basis are children expected to put their life on the line? Children are surely not essential service workers.

I do not know whether COVID continues for a year. I know that it is the duty of the Government to keep the country safe. If the Government is not able to rid the country of the virus, how can it be the responsibility of the children to return to so-called normalcy? How have they failed that to pass the exams they have to put their lives at risk?

57000+ people have died due to COVID to date. And, more will die. Is this not a loss to the country? Who is going to claim this blood on their hands? Does the Government guarantee a career to the students who venture out to give exams in this scenario? If no, how can it ask the students to vie for an illusory career in exchange for a real-life?

 A helpless parent and the lonely angst

The Government knows that it is coming from a position of power, a position of unbridled brute dominance. The Government knows that in the dog eat dog world of the Indian education sector, where the elite medical and engineering seats are at a premium, there is no option for parents or the students to not give entrance exams if ordered to. They will have to fall in line, and they will.

In the Indian political landscape, each caste, each industry, each interest has a lobbying group to influence the decision-making process. But parents? The most-widely disseminated group has no unifying force that can speak in a single voice to get heard. The net result – The Government rams its way through with no opposition and the Supreme Court of India as a lead cheer-leader. Why should anyone bother for a helpless parent and her/his children?

Go ahead, my children. Give the exams. Though it is my duty as a parent, I cannot guarantee your safety anymore. Some of you may die, some of you may suffer from the disease, some of you may carry the scars for the rest of your life.

I am sorry for letting you down in the face of the Indian Government’s indifferent and inept handling of the pandemic. I am sorry.

A Helpless Parent

PS: The Government considers opening of children’s parks as a threat to life, but not giving exams. New Education Policy gets released and advertised, but we cannot look beyond the 3 hour rote fest.