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Is it safe to reopen schools and colleges?

With every single educational institution being closed since the first case of COVID-19 in India, has the time finally come to reopen educational hubs?


Last week, India's central and state administrations decided to keep schools closed for another two weeks citing the safety of students amidst this pandemic. Meanwhile, in Europe, millions of children are returning to classrooms as Europe limps back to relative normalcy. Can the same be said for Indian schools or colleges? Should we decide to reopen our educational ecosystem, is there a safe and assured way to do it?

India is home to the World's Largest Youth Population and has the world's second-largest school system after China. It has been more than two months since schools and other educational institutions were ordered to shut down. This decision brought our education system to a standstill, with many exams, competitive entrance tests, and graduation ceremonies getting postponed indefinitely. As India is now slowly opening its economy, schools and colleges are also poised to reopen. However, we are not seeing any decline in the numbers of Coronavirus cases in the country and the opening of schools and colleges has become a subject for prime-time debate.

E-learning can be a temporary fix, not a permanent solution

Many experts are questioning the government that if e-learning models are effective, why should schools reopen if the number of cases is still going up? Maharashtra's School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad says: "E-learning cannot entirely replace classroom experience. Young kids, especially, find it difficult to grasp lessons online."

Which, in many cases, is turning out to be true. Parents are increasingly complaining about children facing difficulties to keep up with the e-learning model. Furthermore, for families who don't own a laptop, attending e-classes on smartphones is difficult for the younglings.

Colleges have a somewhat similar story. With cancelled final-year exams and scrambled placement procedures, many graduate students are preparing for a bleak future ahead.

Will reopening make children and teenagers vulnerable?

Incidence among children has so far been lower as compared to adults, but we do not intend to take any chances. The plan is to reopen the schools slowly in a manner that lowers the risk for the children and the teachers. The Government is formulating new SOPs for schools. Schools will have to follow strict hygiene guidelines and social distancing will have to be maintained at all cost. Same is applied for colleges. That means many schools and institutions will have to follow 'One-Bench-One-Student' Policy. With proper precautions in place, the vulnerability factor can be reduced drastically.

What will a post-COVID school/college look like?

Maintaining a physical distance between students at all times will be key. That means classes might be taken in two shifts. Calling one batch of students every alternate day is also a viable option. School and college hours will be shortened. Only one student will be permitted to sit on one desk. There will be no morning assemblies in schools or sporting activities. Parents might not be permitted inside school complexes. There will be a strict hand hygiene routine for students and staff alike. Classes would need to be disinfected between batches every day. Outdoor classes might also become popular given its capacity to make students maintain social distancing.

The Final Touch

In addition to all these measures, a robust tracking and monitoring system for students and their parents is the need of the hour. For instance, a smartphone app that can analyze your phone's location history and government data to check if you have visited a containment zone or not. Although school-going children may not have smartphones, their parents would, and analyzing data of a cluster or a family using an AI would yield similar results. Students/Parents who have a clean history could be provided with a pass. This primary filtering system would make the reopening of schools and colleges much safer.

At DigiShield, we have come up with an ingenious solution that can help reopen institutions with relative peace of mind. DIGIShield healthPASS is an AI-powered solution that can continuously monitor the health status of each student and their family ensuring healthPASS users mutual health and well being.

A healthPASS is issued to each student and their family member. The healthPASS validity is maintained by sophisticated Artificial Intelligence algorithms. The AI tracks each pass user's location as well as continually collects data from the phones accelerometer, gyroscope and multiple other sensors. Selfie, as well as pictures of their tongue, are also collected and analysed. All the data points are continuously analysed and feedback is provided to a DIGIShield Health Coach. The coach maintains engagement with each member of the family and is able to identify if they need to be seen by a doctor.

With DIGIShield, administrations of educational institutions can ensure maximum safety for students and can restore our great education system to its former glory. To know more about DIGIShield, visit: www.digishield.me

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