Dr. Soumitra Dutta on COVID and Resumption Of Schools

We are fortunate to have renowned paediatrician, Dr. Soumitra Dutta from Salt Lake (Kolkata), onboard to share his views on COVID and resumption of schools. Dr. Soumitra Dutta is a Senior Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatal Intensivist based at Bhagirathi Neotia Hospital Newtown. Dr. Dutta believes in the human element of clinical medicine that is lacking in the modern sophisticated world of investigative medicine.

As we discuss about reopening of schools, we are surrounded by overwhelming doubts around safety of our children. While we parents emphasize on all-round development of a child, we often end of thinking it as an aggregate of all academic and co-curricular activities. However, we would like to bring in the psychological, social and emotional wellbeing of a child into consideration. Let us pause for a moment and try to answer this question – what is the role of school? If we list down the major points, what percentage will be academic development and what share will socio-emotional development occupy.

Dr. Dutta begins by saying “Schools impart education holistically. In other words, it is far beyond the curriculum. Due to pandemic, we were forced to go indoors and online teaching was the only resource which we could use. And it actually did help a lot. However, there are mental and psychological issues that are addressed when the children are physically together. Children learn social and interactive skills. Unless you socialize, talk to friends, share your thoughts, you cannot blossom as a human being.” Being a father of two children, he records what children gain from socializing in school.

Dr. Dutta adds that these are things that cannot be taught to us, and definitely not through screen-based teaching. There are so many factors in a physical learning set-up which are absent in online learning. Unfortunately, these are things we cannot calculate and measure. He says “It is a bizarre situation where they are just put inside a room. We expect them to grasp as much information as they can from the computer screens, but without giving them a chance to share their feedback.”

He explains that the teacher-student symbiotic relationship cannot be cultivated in an online mode of learning. He says “The interactive teaching between the students and the teacher doesn’t really function when a teacher is sitting on the other side of the computer, miles away from the students, and she has to continuously keep a tab on each and every student.” It is a challenge for teachers to continue without understanding the pulse of the classroom.

Not all homes are suitable environment for online class. He says “a lot of activities might be going around the house which can distract the child. Sometimes the performance of the teacher is undermined because of the fact that the parents are always there.” When they are sitting beside the child, nudging and helping the child, often leading to distraction in the child’s work. Assisting children in their tests and assessments doesn’t develop good qualities in children. Parents should definitely be involved in the child’s education and daily learning process, however, interference in the child’s online class affects the teacher’s efforts.

Dr. Dutta beautifully explains the importance of games and playing. He says “The exuberance that children have is almost nullified because they don’t get to explore their environment through play.” Their physical skills are inhibited, which has a high impact on mental skills as well.



Online mode of education did help the urban population to complete the school curriculum, however, a huge chunk of our population does not have access to technology and mobile devices. Dr. Dutta says that with almost no education in the rural areas, the children get absorbed into child labour. He further adds that Mid-day meals through schools are impacted and Immunization programs are hindered too.

According to him, there are few mandatory steps which should be taken before resumption of schools. First being vaccination of children. Secondly, there is a need to modify school curriculum as schools will be opened in a graded way and some form of hybrid learning will continue. Finally, teachers and other school personnel must be trained on handling COVID protocols. Dr. Dutta ends by saying “there has to be enough amount of positive discussion on the media for opening up schools. And the government needs to come out in a big way and advertise and profess the fact that schools cannot be neglected.”


We extend our gratitude to Dr. Soumitra Dutta for sharing his thoughts on this crucial issue.

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