Focus on making schools breathable and safe too, urges expert


Mumbai: Even as Maharashtra struggles with the highest COVID positive population in India, we need to capitalise on the lockdown time and plan for tomorrow, according to social and industry experts. One such sector which needs immediate attention is education – specifically the infrastructure for our schools and colleges.

Currently, Maharashtra has more than 8000 positive patients and 342 confirmed deaths. The state, with a population of 12.35 crore, has more than 84,000 schools (as of 2018) and 848 colleges. Nearly all of our student populace, who use these facilities are shuttered in, with few getting continued access to education.

Online classes and tutorials are helping in these tough times, but not to the same extent as regular schooling. That’s why a return to normalcy after we flatten the Corona curve would also require planning for proper education amenities – schools, staff, educational tools, examinations and more.

Access and infrastructure are two of the first concerns around education. With schools and educational institutions spread across cities, towns, districts, tehsils and villages, what we need right now for the sector is a comprehensive action plan.

“It takes a minimum of 45 days to prepare and implement safety measures and guidelines for largescale infrastructure. Considering the size of Maharashtra, we need to have this action plan right now, even if we think about opening schools two months from now”, said Mansoor Ali, Research Analyst, founder of AMFAH India and an Industry expert on indoor ventilation, air quality and planning.

Ali, who had recently reached out to the education department in Maharashtra, says that these measures require a focus on not just entry and exit into these common zones, but also sanitisation, ventilation and maintaining air quality.

“In a letter to the Maharashtra education department, we had shared how our education model brings an extensive and vulnerable section of society in close contact with each other. This contact can be a coronavirus breeding ground”, he added.

So, how do we prevent such a massive transmission and keep our educational institutions safe? “Clean, disinfected surfaces, social distancing, checks to safeguard these institutions from positive patients and carriers should be the agenda for now. We should also brainstorm ways to set up a sanitised ventilation system to reduce the chances of pathogens in the air. Staff training SOPs to handle different situations and maintain hygiene levels are essential too. “