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Closing down schools again will adversely affect 320 million students worldwide, the Unicef said on Tuesday as 90 million more children stayed away from schools in November.

There is a huge societal cost attached to school closure and prolonged shutdown will have a negative impact on education outcome, the UN agency added.

“The benefits of keeping schools open far outweigh the costs of closing them and nationwide closures of schools should be avoided," it said.

“When schools close, children risk losing their learning, support system, food and safety, with the most marginalized children, who are the most likely to drop out altogether, paying the heaviest price," Unicef said. “Too many schools are closing unnecessarily and not enough emphasis has been placed on taking steps to make schools safe from covid-19," it said.

November saw a 38% jump in the number of children affected by school closures, Unicef said, after a big wave of reopening in the previous month.

“We are seeing an alarming trend whereby governments are once again closing down schools as a first recourse rather than a last resort. In some cases, this is being done nationwide, rather than community by community, and children are continuing to suffer the devastating impacts on their learning, mental and physical well-being and safety," said Robert Jenkins, global chief of education at Unicef.

“Despite everything we have learned about covid-19, the role of schools in community transmission, and the steps we can take to keep children safe at school, we are moving in the wrong direction, and are doing so very quickly," Jenkins said.

However, experts and parents in India argued that Indian school system has a high density of students and social distancing will be tough to implement for the students. In India physical campuses have largely been shut since mid-March and online schooling is being done in most parts of the country albeit with limited success.

As many as 72% Indian parents are not ready to send their children to schools in the 2020 calendar year, according to a survey by community portal LocalCircles. The survey conducted in September also found that 34% parents surveyed said schools should open only in the next academic year.

“Staggered reopening over time is the way forward. Reopening schools will have both academic and administrative challenges besides the health challenge. Calling all students to schools will be unwise and if you call some, there is a good chance of mismatch in learning between those who will come and those who won’t," said a teacher in Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, who chose not to be named.

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