Educational institutions must reopen

The government has announced that schools will be closed from 23 January to 8 February due to an increased spread of coronavirus. The government announced that all educational institutions under primary, secondary, higher secondary and national universities would be closed.

However, the concerned authorities of autonomous and private universities will decide for themselves. At present, physical education is closed in all educational institutions of the country, although examinations continue in some universities. Even though online classes are open, most of the students in the educational institutions are deprived of the opportunity.

When educational institutions were declared closed for two weeks to curtail coronavirus infections, the government issued further instructions, including a limitation on the number of guests at social events, hygiene at public places including fairs, tourist attractions, public transport, shopping malls and restaurant service.

It is unfortunate that none of these restrictions and instructions is being followed. As there is a lack of surveillance in this regard by the concerned agencies and departments of the government, there is also a lack of awareness among the people.

We have been saying from the beginning that coordinated and all-out effort are required to control corona infection. Isolated and sporadic steps will not work. Hygiene cannot be enforced only by the law enforcement or the administration. People from all walks of life have to be involved.

If the government has closed the educational institutions for the safety of the students, then its effectiveness is also questionable. There is no guarantee that students will be safe from the virus unless they go to school. Members of the same family are going out of the houses and mixing with all sorts of people.

In this context, it is significant that the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has called on world leaders to keep schools open complying with all health rules. "Keep the school open," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement on 26 January.

Due to the complete or partial closure of schools, about 616 million children are currently affected in the world. We urge governments to take all possible measures to ensure that the new variant of Covid-19 Omicron does not interfere with children's education as it spreads around the world.

UNICEF calls on teachers and students to be vaccinated on a priority basis. But they say vaccination should not be seen as a prerequisite for students to go to the classroom. Not only UNICEF, but also academics in the country have criticised the closure of educational institutions while keeping everything else open. Parents and students have expressed their discontent too. Students of colleges under the National University have demanded examinations to be held immediately. The vice-chancellor has assured them that the postponed examinations will be held from 7 February.

The educational institutions was reopened last September after being closed for almost a year and a half. Closure of educational institutions again could lead to disaster in the sector. Therefore, we call on the government to ensure that under no circumstances can vacations in educational institutions be extended. Now is the time to resume classes.