“How long can I remain in isolation?” How COVID-19 vaccines helped reopen the schools of Kashmir
The response from students to a vaccination drive to re-open schools has been overwhelming.
- 30 March 2022
- 4 min read
- by Nasir Yousufi
Saleema, along with her school-going daughter, Iqra, hurriedly makes her way by boat to the nearest health facility to get her daughter jabbed. After paddling through the picturesque waters for half an hour, Iqra queues in the waiting room of a primary health centre on the outskirts of Srinagar. For the first time in two years, teenagers in the Indian territories of Jammu and Kashmir are looking forward to going back to school.
“How long can I remain in isolation? I need to move outside, go to school and mingle with my friends. I miss my school days badly!"
Iqra is not alone in the rush for the jab. At Government Girls Higher Secondary Kothibagh, where the administration kickstarted what is the third inoculation drive at 1,172 vaccination centres in the valley, a large number of teenage students, most accompanied by their parents, line up to receive their first dose.
“How long can I remain in isolation? I need to move outside, go to school and mingle with my friends. I miss my school days badly! I want that school experience! When I heard about the drive in the morning from my school WhatsApp group, I immediately walked to this facility to get my first jab of Covaxin,” says Talib Hussain, a standard 12 student from SP School Srinagar.
The enthusiasm among the children to return to school life is clear to see. Amidst the subzero temperatures and continuous downpour, a good number of students still reported for the inoculation.
Dr Tariq Ahmad, medical superintendent in charge of vaccinations in Khanyar, Srinagar, says that out of 300 eligible children, the team vaccinated 238 students on the first day of the drive at the Kothibagh centre.
“Within the first few weeks of the drive, we have been able to inoculate about 90% of children in the 15 to 17 age group in our zone,” adds Dr Ahmad.
As the administration has linked the in-person teaching of students in school with their vaccination, parents are enthusiastic to vaccinate their children. Alia Iqbal, mother of standard 11 student Sadaat Iqbal is hopeful of getting her son vaccinated.
“Making COVID-19 vaccination certificates mandatory for students to physically attend classes has generated an overwhelming response. Out of the 330 students eligible for vaccination that are enrolled at this institution, all produced vaccination certificates."
“There are chances that my son could get infected in the school but I hope the vaccine will minimise the chances of children contracting and becoming sick from COVID-19,” she says.
Upbeat about the vaccination drive amongst the teenagers, Alia adds: “The decision to reopen schools after a successful vaccination drive is a welcome step. Our wards have suffered a lot for COVID-19 imposed health emergency, including the continuous closure of schools during the pandemic.”
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In the lead up to the vaccination drive, PK Pole, Divisional Commissioner for Kashmir stated that the opening of schools would be directly proportional to vaccination. Government has made it mandatory for teenage students to produce a vaccination certificate in order to attend in-person classes. And, towards the end of February 2022, following what is considered a successful vaccination drive among the target group, authorities started opening schools in Jammu and Kashmir.
“It seems that the move has worked very well. Making COVID-19 vaccination certificates mandatory for students to physically attend classes has generated an overwhelming response. Out of the 330 students eligible for vaccination that are enrolled at this institution, all produced vaccination certificates,” says Shabir Ahmad Mir, principal of Government Higher Secondary School Gund Hasi Bhat.
Dr Masrat Jabeen, Assistant Director of Family Welfare Health and Immunisation in Jammu and Kashmir, reports that the department has vaccinated all 8,432,122 eligible children, achieving the 100% target for the age group. She adds that the response to this drive has been overwhelming and rapid compared to earlier vaccination drives targeting adult age groups.
In response to this enthusiasm, the administration has started a vaccination drive for the 12 to 14 years age group.
“Keeping school and college going and keeping children safe is the priority of the government. The overwhelming response and successful vaccination drive has definitely helped the administration in opening the schools for in-person teaching and learning,” says Pole.
Amid the feverish rush for vaccinations and plummeting numbers of new COVID-19 infections, the return of school life has sent the whole valley, in particular the teaching and student community, into a festive spirit.