No relation between opening schools and Covid spike: World Bank Education Director
World Bank's Global Education Director Jaime Saavedra has said there is no justification now for keeping schools closed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and even if there are new waves.
Closing schools should be the last resort, Saavedra said in an interview to the Press Trust of India (PTI).
Saavedra's team has been tracking the impact of Covid-19 on the education sector.
There is no evidence that reopening schools caused a surge in coronavirus cases and that schools are not a "safe place", he said.
He also said that there is "no science" behind the public policy perspective to wait till children are vaccinated.
"There is no relation between opening schools and spread of coronavirus. There is no evidence linking the two and there is no justification now to keep the schools closed. Even if there are new waves of Covid-19, closing schools should be the last resort," Saavedra told PTI in the interview from Washington.
"It does not make sense to keep restaurants, bars and shopping malls open and keep schools closed. There is no excuse," he added.
World Bank's various simulations have revealed that health risks for children are low if schools are opened, while the cost of school closure is extremely high.
"During 2020, we were navigating in a sea of ignorance. We just didn't know what is the best way of combating the pandemic and the immediate reaction of most countries in the world was let's close schools. Time has passed since then and with evidence coming in from late 2020 and 2021, we have had several waves and there are several countries which have opened schools," he said.
"We have been able to see if schools opening have had an impact in the transmission of virus and new data shows it doesn't. Many counties have also had waves when schools were closed so obviously there has been no role of schools in some of the spikes."
"Even if the kids can get infected and with the Omicron it is happening even more but fatalities and serious illness among children is extremely rare. The risks for children are low and costs are extremely high," Saavedra added.
Referring to the concerns of children not being vaccinated yet, the World Bank official said, "There is no country which has put the condition of reopening schools only after children are vaccinated. Because there is no science behind it and it does not make sense from public policy perspective".
"In countries like India where the inequalities in education were already prevalent before the pandemic and the learning poverty levels were already gigantic, there is a lot at stake. Nearly two years later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school."
"The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families, and the world's economies," Saavedra added.