Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) Anurag Kundu has written to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, urging that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) issue directions for opening anganwadi centres and schools for younger children.
In the letter, Kundu has submitted that schools should open for nursery to class VIII at least two days a week for all children in a staggered manner and that anganwadi centres open at least once a week for all children in a staggered manner, along with random testing of children and staff members at these schools and centres.
“Delhi’s Covid infection spread has shown remarkable decline and has been constantly under 40 for the past six weeks. Similarly, most days witnessed zero fatality in the past six weeks. Consequently, nearly all sectors have opened up ranging from offices, workshops, to cinema halls, markets, gyms and parks. Clearly children not attending school cannot keep safe since the adults are moving about and returning home. As it is, children are visible everywhere in public places… It, therefore, remains unclear as to what extra vulnerability would children experience by coming to school or how they remain safer by not attending it,” the letter stated.
This comes a few days after a group of 66 parents sent a representation to various functionaries, including Kundu, requesting that children up to class VIII be allowed to go to school at least once a week.
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 his letter, Kundu also pointed to the limitations of online learning and the damages in the form of learning loss and on the social, mental, and physical health of children. He also stated that the extended closure of anganwadi centres has also led to routine immunisation of children taking a hit, as well as their cognitive development and nutrition monitoring.
“Malnutrition and compromised routine immunisation of the children leads to impaired cognitive ability in children, vulnerability to deadly diseases and premature deaths. Anganwadis are the best antidotes to it. Anganwadi closures become further problematic given the fact that cognitive development happens only till the age of 6 years and, therefore, early childhood education becomes more crucial than even secondary schooling,” he stated.
Educationists have pushed for reopening of schools, arguing that the learning gap, especially in younger children, has widened since junior classes have been conducted offline since March 2020.