69% parents want schools to reopen from April 2021 or after
- ● Percentage of parents in favor of reopening schools from April 2021 session doubles from 34% in September
- ● Only 26% Indian parents say they are interested to get Covid vaccine for their children before the start of the school session in April 2021
January 4, 2021, New Delhi: Since the inception of coronavirus-induced pandemic, schools were the first to close across India and are likely to be the last to reopen. Many education institutions, including schools, colleges and universities closed few weeks even before the lockdown started in India on March 24, 2020. During the pandemic, most schools in urban districts were able to provide online education and assignments to students, delivering classes through video conferencing. Though there were teething issues early on due to connectivity issues or lack of enough devices in many homes, things settled quite well by June 2020. However, students from remote parts of the country badly missed this year’s session due to least or no infrastructure available for them to take online classes during the pandemic. This compelled many educational institutions to cancel their classes, reviews and examinations of the early terms.
The Government lifted the lockdown restrictions from almost all sectors in a phased manner barring schools. With the good news coming from vaccine development has prompted some states to start considering reopening of schools. Karnataka, Bihar, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, among other states, have chosen to partially reopen schools, starting with higher classes this month. It can be mentioned here that when the Andhra Pradesh and Haryana Governments earlier tried to reopen schools, hundreds of students and teachers reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in only a week’s time. Nonetheless, the education sector cannot remain locked forever. However, safety remains a priority.
In the aftermath of significantly declining COVID-19 caseloads in India and the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine likely to become available within a few weeks, LocalCircles conducted another survey to understand if parents’ hesitancy level to reopen schools have reduced, increased or has been maintained. It also tried to get parents’ pulse on getting COVID-19 vaccines if they were made available to children via Government or Private channels. Also, parents' opinion on the reopening of school was compared with a previously conducted survey on the subject to understand the change over time. The survey received more than 19,000 responses from parents located in 224 districts of the country. 58% parents were from Tier 1 districts, 21% from Tier 2 districts and 21% from Tier 3, Tier 4 and rural districts of India.
To the question that asked, “Given the current declining COVID-19 daily caseload, what is your position in regard to re-opening of schools in India?” responses from 8,695 parents were received. Notably, 69% of parents said given the current trends and situation with COVID, schools in India should start from April 2021 or after. Further, 23% said it should start from January 1, 2021. Per survey results published by LocalCircles on September 30, 2020, 34% of parents opined that the Government should consider opening schools only in the next academic year come April 2021 as many feared to send their children to school amid the outbreak. Findings from the latest survey indicates that the percentage of parents who want schools to open only in the next session doubled in the last 3 months, from 34% to 69%.
Percentage of parents should start from next session (April 2021 or after)
Percentage of parents who want schools to open only in next session doubles in the last 3 months
Currently, the Government of India is forming strategies to vaccinate selected candidates, including healthcare and frontline workers, people with comorbidities and elderly citizens, in the first round of vaccination. Suggestions have started to pour from across corners to vaccinate teachers and school workers too in view of opening schools across the country. Taking cognizance of the issue, another question on the survey asked parents, “If the COVID-19 vaccine is made available for school children by April 2021, would you consider giving it to your child or grandchild?” Only 26% Indian parents approve of their children receiving the COVID-19 vaccine if it is made available by April 2021, or before school session. Further 56% of parents voted “Will wait 3 months or more and then consider based on data or findings'', while 12% said “No”. The survey to the question received 10,468 responses.
Only 26% Indian parents approve of their children receiving the Covid vaccine if it is made available in April 2021 (before next school session); 56% want to wait atleast till July 2021
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its recently published guideline, titled “Schools and childcare settings: return in January 2021”, listed approaches for schools to minimize the impact of COVID-19. One of the points WHO suggested is that at all times schools should ensure that the testing program is managed in line with the system of controls. That includes maintaining social distancing where possible, good hand and respiratory hygiene, and keeping occupied spaces well ventilated. It also encourages schools to encourage testing and ensure pupils and parents are aware of the benefits. On the other hand, a report citing a member of the Government’s policy think-tank, NITI Aayog, said that “as of now” there is no reason to consider vaccination in children based on the available evidence.
The Government of India has lined-up healthcare workers, frontline workers, senior citizens and co-morbid citizens above the age of 50 to be immunized in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination. Meanwhile, the B.1.1.7 new variant of coronavirus been detected in the UK has prompted India to halt flights and travel from the UK till January 8, 2021, as a precautionary measure before any substantial report is released on the new virus mutation. A recent report, citing the President of the Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania, the new strain’s effect on teenagers and children showed that they are not immune from B.1.1.7 mutation of coronavirus. In the earlier strain, children were believed to be largely safe. In India as of Jan 2, 2020, the country detected 29 cases of mutated COVID-19 strain in UK returnees. Experts so far have suggested that there is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against COVID-19 variants reported from the UK.54
A lot will depend on the compliance of safety protocols, if schools are to be reopened. If followed strictly, this will help. Else, chances of severe infections are high. The fact that there has been an increase in the percentage of parents wanting schools to open only in the next session come April 2021, as indicated by the LocalCircles survey suggests that parents are worried about their children’s education and now with declining case load the balance is tilting towards education rather than fear of Covid.
LocalCircles will share the findings of this survey with Central and State Government officials so that feedback of parents can be considered as decisions are made on school reopening dates.
The survey received more than 19,000 responses from parents located in 224 districts of the country. 58% parents were from Tier 1 districts, 21% from Tier 2 districts and 21% from Tier 3, Tier 4 and rural districts of India. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.