Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Italy is ‘benched’ even though Coronavirus has moved away!

Italy, for a long time, had the world’s sympathy as a sufferer from the Coronavirus pandemic. It again is the object of world’s attention: for the desks it needs to find for its little children.

Italy is reopening its school on September 14. But its struggling to raise as many as 3 million single-seat desks for students. The old ones, catering to two or three sharing the same bench, would simply not do.

Italy on its own can’t do it. So, it has put out a tender for millions of desks. It has announced it would award contracts for 2.5 million desks.

The trouble is there isn’t any Italian manufacturer who could make as many desks in such a short time. These manufacturers also believe that even in Europe there won’t be any company which could produce what the government has requested.

The thoughtful conduct of Italy’s education ministry isn’t without pitfalls. Single-seat bench would require more space within a classroom. Or they would have to reduce the class strength. And what happens to the old furniture? Is there enough space within a school premises, in busy parts of big cities, to dump those old benches?

Selling them off is a bad option. Coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to last forever. It would again be back to normal, most possibly with next few months. It would again be cramped spaces, students jostling with each other shoulder to shoulder. Would it again be an exercise to swap multi-seat benches with single ones?

A mitigating factor is that about one-seventh of students would take online classes. The government has requested schools to manage space or make use of auditoriums, museums, churches, libraries etc. All the things they could do is to accommodate students and maintain a safe distance between them too.

It would be interesting to see how the government and schools will match up with these changing conditions and act towards these vital unanswered questions.

One thinks India, which plans to open its schools too next month, could face a similar situation. It would be interesting how the government responds to this situation. If they don’t, and leave schools to do as it pleases them, it could put young lives to risk and that’s something one doesn’t want.

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