EDITORIAL: Back to School

Also many students will be taking public transportation, which does not follow the prescribed health protocols

Despite the threat of the spread of the coronavirus still looming large, schools across all the local levels of the Kathmandu Valley have taken the plunge to reopen them. The schools are, thus, opening after a hiatus of ten months due to the coronavirus pandemic, although what unforeseen challenges this will throw up is anyone’s guess.

While the local levels of the valley have decided to allow schools to reopen, this will need to be accompanied by strict adherence to the health protocols prescribed by the government. Schools across the country have been closed since March 24 last year when the government enforced a nation-wide lockdown to halt the spread of the virus.

Although the lockdown has been lifted since September, students are not physically present in the schools, and teaching is mainly through online classes where permissible. However, the virtual teaching learning process is a new experience for both the teachers and the students, and how effective it has been is hard to say, as not everyone can afford the necessary gadgets, such as a laptop.

For now schools in the valley are asking students studying in classes 8, 9 and 10 to attend school physically. Being able to attend school is particularly important for the students appearing for the Secondary Education Examination (SEE), who will be sitting for the exams in the second week of May.

The SEE exams were cancelled last year, and students were promoted based solely on their internal evaluation, which led to record number of students graduating with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA). There has been a sharp decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Nepal in recent weeks, prompting the government to allow industries and other enterprises to open, and now schools.

On Sunday, there were 266 cases of coronavirus infection, while there are 3,919 actives cases, down from the tens of thousands just months back. However, the low numbers could actually be masking the severity of the disease because Nepal has not been conducting antigen and PCR tests in desired numbers. Thus, it would be prudent to wait a little more before schools take in students from the lower classes.

Even the decision to reopen schools for the higher classes has met with mixed reactions. While some have welcomed it, others are demanding that the government bring out a notice so that there is uniformity in opening of schools across the country so that no one is left out.

Once schools start, it will not be easy to have the students maintain social distancing and follow proper sanitisation procedures. Also many students will be taking the public transportation, which, of late, has stopped following any of the health protocols of the government. Thus, all the stakeholders have a role in seeing that the children’s health is well protected during this time of the pandemic.

There is plenty we could learn from neighbouring and other countries where schools have long opened and are coping with the problems as they arise. Since a vaccine is the only possible solution for now to beat the virus, the government must double its efforts to procure and start mass inoculation at the earliest.

Don’t reconcile

It is shocking to learn that almost 90 per cent of the cases related to violence against women (VAW) in Lamjung district are settled through reconciliation at the village level in the presence of influential people of the locality.

VAW is a serious crime punishable by law, and even the elected officials at the local level cannot settle it through reconciliation. When reconciliation takes place between the victims and the perpetrators, it is the victims who are deprived of justice as per the law.

Data show that out of the 184 cases of VAW registered at various police stations in the past three-andhalf years, 116 were settled through reconciliation between the victims and the perpetrators.

Only 24 cases of VAW were lodged at the district court. Recently, the government issued an ordinance to criminalise the reconciliation practice taking place between the perpetrators and the victims in the villages.

In some remote parts of the country, even rape cases are reported to have been settled through forced reconciliation. VAW is a serious crime that should be dealt with as per the legal provisions. The local level officials should help the victims to knock at the door of the court to get justice.