Government must address challenges facing children’s education amid pandemic that shows no signs of abating


A battle for education

The global pandemic has surely amplified the presence of income disparities in our country. UNICEF India report “Rapid Assessment of Learning During School Closures Amid COVID-19” mentions the use of WhatsApp and YouTube in relation to different categories; the use of girls was 8 percent lower than that of boys; use by younger students (5-13 years) was 16 percent lower than that by older students (13-18 years); the utilization of rural students was 15% lower than that of urban students, and for students in grades 1 to 5, the utilization of public school students was 10% lower than that of private school students.

According to the Indian Lancet COVID-19 Commission Working Group, only 24% of Indian households have internet access. According to the Ministry of Education, more than 50 million elementary school children were not reaching the basics of literacy and numeracy due to a lack of proper internet connectivity.

These data are extremely worrying. For a country as young as India, its better economic days depend on the educational skills acquired by its young population today. With the complete shift from the education method to the online mode, the demands of purchasing a decent device and a stable internet connection have overwhelmed many economically disadvantaged families.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls’ education is going to be huge. The 1098 child helpline saw a 50% increase in call volume in 2020 with 4,60,000 calls pleading for protection, out of those 6,355 calls related to child marriage. COVID-19 has reversed decades of progress in schooling and the prevention of child marriage and child labor. It also threatens the progress made by us as a society towards gender equality with more and more women exposed to violence and neglect.

An estimated 11 million girls may not return to school, causing unprecedented educational disruption. The main reasons for girls dropping out of school during the pandemic relate to financial constraints and increased household engagement.

In rural and underserved communities, adolescent girls lack a meaningful learning capacity with insufficient access to nutritious food, sanitation and basic technology needed to attend online classes.

Parents in families with a limited number of devices often prioritize boys over girls for more screen time. In addition, gender bias and the poor quality of school education also lead to a high dropout rate. At the time of the crisis in most of the underdeveloped and developing countries, girls are seen as disabled and married.

Even before the Covid pandemic, India faced a serious learning crisis with nearly 50% of class V students in rural India unable to read even at the class II level. A recent study from Azim Premji University estimates that 92% of children in grades II-VI have lost their language skills and 82% have lost their math skills, the cost of school closures is going to be lasting and could frighten everyone. a generation. .

Further, what makes matters worse is the impact on tens of millions of children from marginalized groups with limited access to technology.

According to the UNICEF report “Rapid assessment of learning during school closures in the context of COVID-19”, 80% of students aged 14 to 18 reported learning levels below the standard. home compared to when they were taking lessons at school. . 76% of parents of students aged 5 to 13 and 80% of adolescents aged 14 to 18 say that students learn a little less than they would in school. 67% of teachers believe that students have fallen behind in their overall progress compared to what they should have if schools were open.

Most teachers got stuck in a sticky situation. The majority of teachers have taught in their lives using the traditional “chalk and blackboard method” and a sudden change in teaching methods took them by surprise.

Most teachers have not yet been trained in online pedagogy. Lack of access and ignorance of electronic gadgets along with the lack of educated home monitoring in the absence of teachers mean that socio-economically disadvantaged children fall far behind.

UNICEF India’s report “Rapid Assessment of Learning During School Closures Amid COVID-19” estimates that around 8% of teachers do not have a personal smartphone or laptop. 33% of teachers saw no benefit from distance learning.

The report also mentions that in rural areas, village youth and community members have mobilized to address some of the access gaps. This includes teachers using offline resources such as speakers, families and communities pooling digital devices to share, and older children playing the role of educators.

Prolonged school closures have also prevented many children from learning social interactions and hobbies, which are essential to their overall development. The quality of education has also been severely affected, from practical lessons to learning new skills, offline schooling and learning experiences used to help students build confidence, as well as participation and participation. involvement in team activities, used to help them become and evolve into better humans and citizens.

However, due to the lack of offline human-to-human interactions, students miss out on so many vital lessons and experiences that make humans an asset to their country.


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