Academic Institutions Need Not Panic, But Should Stay Alert: Health Experts

By Manjima Dhakal

Kathmandu, Mar. 28: As the country has been witnessing an upsurge in the cases of coronavirus pandemic, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) released a statement on Thursday requesting all education institutions across the country to run their academic activities by complying with government-approved safety measures.
Now, stakeholders of education sector have started making a string of predications concerning how to operate schools in light of the emerging threat of second wave of coronavirus pandemic. However, the government hasn’t hinted at closing of the schools yet.

That has added to the uncertainty of the academic institutions, especially schools that are gearing up for the final examinations in two months. They fear things might go out of hands if the situation persists for few more weeks.

Learning Realm International, a Kalanki-based school, has started discussing how best to manage the upcoming examinations in the face of the looming threat. Shiva Raj Panta, its founder, said the school would operate as per government’s decision but that the examinations might be preponed if things didn’t improve. Rituraj Sapkota, chairperson of the National Private and Boarding School Association Nepal (NPABSAN), said if schools were forced to shut down again, they would have no option but to close them permanently because they wouldn’t be able to withstand another financial blow.

However, health experts have said there is no need to panic at the moment but have urged everyone to remain prepared for the worst.
Dr. Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert, echoing other health experts, asked all not to get anxious because we had already faced the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dixit added that there was no reason for schools to close at the moment and that all teaching and non-teaching staffs of all schools should be vaccinated by the government. Children would face a lot of problems, like eye and mental health problems, if schools closed again, Dixit added. Dr. Rabindra Pandey, another health expert, suggested running online and offline classes simultaneously and added: “It would be in everyone’s interest if schools didn’t invite all students at once.

They can run classes on alternate days, and running multiple shifts might be a good option to opt for running physical classes for now.”

The Ministry, through the statement, has requested academic institutions to follow the ‘School Operating Framework, 2077’ which suggests running classes in different shifts, alternative ways. Only recently, schools throughout the country resumed their physical classes after remaining shut for more than seven months.
Dr. Biddhyanath Koirala, an educationist said that students’ learning might not be hampered if the entire academic ecosystem employed technology for both teaching and learning purposes. He urged the schools to give options to students whether they would like to be at school or like to learn from their own home if the situation aggravated.

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