National Human Rights Commission says schoolchildren at risk of virus infectionsThe rights watchdog calls upon health and education ministries not to disseminate contradictory statements and urges the government to uphold the children’s right to health and life.
Most of the schools in the Valley don’t follow health protocols issued by the government despite the surge in the cases of the coronavirus, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
The constitutional human rights watchdog said it inspected 15 schools, private and public c0mbined, from the three districts in the Valley following reports of a spike in virus infections.
“Not a single school was found to have abided fully by safety protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and Population,” Manju Khatiwada, an undersecretary at the commission who was part of the inspection team, told the Post. “The situation is worse in public schools.”
During the inspection, the commission found that some of the schools had kept students with probable symptoms in a common room with other students.
In many schools teachers said that it was not possible to maintain social distancing because of high numbers of students, according to the commission.
The government has recommended avoiding a crowd of more than 25 people.
Officials say the UK variant of the coronavirus, known as B.1.1.7, is responsible for the spike in the new infections and that unlike in the past, more children have been found to have contracted the virus.
However, the government has failed to take any concrete decision on whether to close the schools. While the Health Ministry has asked guardians not to send their children to schools and recommended closure of schools in 14 districts where the risk of virus spread is high, the Education Ministry wants continuation of the face-to-face teaching-learning process, following health protocols strictly.
Experts and guardians have lamented the government agencies’ half-hearted and contradicting statements at a time when children are at a huge risk of the coronavirus infections.
Health officials say of the total infections reported lately, 12-14 percent are children.
On Saturday, the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre made a recommendation to the Cabinet that schools should run only virtual classes until the end of the Nepali month of Baisakh (May 14).
The national rights watchdog has said it is deeply concerned about the safety of the students in the areas where coronavirus cases are increasing.
“We call upon the government of Nepal to adopt an alternative way of teaching-learning keeping in mind the right to health and life of the children,” the commission said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The commission has also requested the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education not to disseminate mutually contradicting statements regarding the closure of the schools.
“The commission requests the government of Nepal and the concerned stakeholders to become sensitive on the safety of the students,” reads the statement.