8 in 10 parents in these five Indian states say there was no online education in government schools during the lockdown

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  • In Bihar, India’s poorest state, all the parents reported “non-delivery of education” in government schools.
  • More than 40% of teachers in these five states are afraid that a quarter of students may drop out of school once they reopen.
  • A total of 1158 parents across private and government schools and 488 government school teachers across five states- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh participated in the Oxfam India study.
Schools in India were forced to shut down in March after PM Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The government had asked schools to deliver lectures online but thousands of students were left with no means to study due to lack of access to smartphones. As many as 27 crore children in India were affected.

Over 80% of parents of students studying government schools in five Indian states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh — said the school did not deliver any online lessons during COVID-19 lockdown, according to a survey conducted by NGO Oxfam India.

In Bihar, India’s poorest state, all the parents reported “non-delivery of education” in government schools. The report states that most of the children were deprived of online education due to a lack of digital devices.

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A total of 1158 parents across private and government schools and 488 government school teachers across five states- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh participated in the study, which was conducted between May to June 2020.

In India, only 15% of rural households have access to digital tech.

Over 85% of the households in rural India — that has a population of 500 million people — do not have access to any digital device, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc, according to a 2017 survey by the Ministry of Statistics.

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Even those households which have a digital device face several problems. According to the report, 75% of parents in these five states said that they faced challenges like — low internet speed, no internet connection, and expensive data.

First day of online classes for children in the state on TuesdayBCCL

In some of the states, like Jharkhand, parents say they did not have the “right device” that can get access to online classes.

Lack of online education has had an impact on both private and government schools, however, the impact on state-run schools was higher. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds will lose almost “40% of their previous year’s learning.”
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The digital divide may impact employability in the long-run and there will be a situation of under-employment, suggests Dr Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, the Shahani Group. “People will take more logistic jobs or tedious jobs just to pay their bills,” Shahani told Business Insider.

Besides, when it comes to government schools, the pandemic’s ripple effect spills beyond just education delivery. “In addition to being a site of learning, a government school also provides entitlements such as Mid-Day Meals (MDM), textbooks and other learning materials,” added the Oxfam report.

A quarter of children may drop out of school, fear teachers

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Coronavirus has pushed lakhs of families in rural areas into poverty — which may in turn force children to join the workforce to reduce financial burden. More than 40% of teachers in these five states are afraid that a quarter of students may drop out of school once they reopen.

According to the Oxfam report, experts estimate that ‘out of school’ children in India will double wherein marginalized social groups such as Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims will be disproportionately affected. Moreover, girls in rural areas will be more affected than boys. Many of them may even be forced to get married early.

“The moment a family’s income gets impacted by a calamity, girls are the first to bear its brunt, they are always thought of as a burden and not an asset so they are the lowest priority,” Renuka, a gender rights activist with Pardada Pardadi Educational Society told India Spend.

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According to another report, around 320 million students in India are likely to be impacted by school closure — which may result in increasing economic and social stress, an increase in food security.

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