When the education administration of Kathmandu Metropolitan City announced plans to resume schools next week on Thursday, Shiva Raj Adhikari, the principal of the Sanskrit Secondary School on the Durbar High School grounds, was resting at home with Covid-19.
Adhikari told the Post over the phone, “I’ve been on bed rest for a week and both of my children are infected.” “I believe reopening the schools now would be a mistake,” Adhikari, whose school has 400 children, said.
The Valley authorities loosened the Covid-19 restrictions even more on Wednesday, announcing that schools can reopen after gaining authorization from their local units, which must acquire permission from the District Covid-19 Crisis Management Center concerned.
“Kathmandu’s top district officer advised us on Wednesday that local units can grant authorization for schools to reopen. We’ve also discovered that the coronavirus infection rate has decreased, so we’re preparing to reopen schools next week, possibly on Monday or Tuesday,” said Ram Prasad Subedi, the chief of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s education department.
On Friday and Saturday, he said, the agency will assess the infection situation and make a decision.
Educators and the Guardians Federation, on the other hand, believe the government’s decision is influenced by vested interests. “This is a product of education’s commercialization. Private schools have pressed the government to reopen schools so that they may bill students for full fees and other expenses, but experts indicate that children are the most vulnerable to Covid-19 infection since they have not been vaccinated,” said Binay Kusiyait, a professor at Tribhuvan University.
On Thursday, the government recorded 2,004 new Covid-19 cases, as well as 16 virus-related deaths. In the same way, 793 new infections were documented in the Kathmandu Valley in the last 24 hours. In Kathmandu, 541 instances were discovered, 152 in Lalitpur, and 100 in Bhaktapur.
“I see a devious game here because we could be courting a disaster all because of the government’s immature decision,” Kusiyait added, pushing the Kathmandu Metropolitan City to consider options until at least Dashain.
The education department of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City oversees a total of 640 private and 91 community schools.
Suprabhat Bhandari, the chairperson of the Guardians Federation Nepal, is also opposed to schools reopening in cities like Kathmandu, where the number of active Covid-19 cases is large. “It might be acceptable to allow schools in rural areas with fewer diseases and fewer students to resume classes in person,” Bhandari added. Bhandari argues that because most kids in remote areas do not have access to the internet, computers, or cellphones, their academics have been harmed, such schools should be permitted to restart physical education lessons if health standards are followed.
Schools and institutions around the country have been shuttered since March 18 of last year, and some of them returned in the third week of January this year after over nine months, only to close again three months later.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City had previously chosen to allow schools to hold exams in the third week of May, when the infection rate was still high.
Doctors believe that reopening schools raises the danger of Covid-19 infection.
Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, said, “We are still in the danger zone because daily infection levels are still over 1,000.”
“Before enabling schools to start lessons in person, the government should put in place an effective system for monitoring the infection status and a control mechanism, as the Delta variety could still unleash a third wave,” Pun warned.
He claims that children are at greater risk since they are not vaccinated, and that Nepal lacks adequate paediatric health facilities and health staff to deal with a pandemic.
Meanwhile, Adhikari, the head of Durbar High School, says it will be difficult to get youngsters to follow the Covid safety rules, which include physical separation.
“With the Dashian holidays only a month away, they shouldn’t be hurrying to reopen schools. “What if the children brought the diseases home with them and infected their family members?” Adhikari wondered.