COVID-19 and education: a catastrophic situation in India
Schools are still closed in many states and access to remote learning is still difficult. In rural areas, only 8 per cent of rural students are attending e-classes. The average level of education is getting worse while the gender gap is getting wider. For experts, schools must be reopened now to avoid a disaster.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and the Indian school system have been “catastrophic”, this according to a study reported by The Indian Express newspaper.
Only 8 per cent of children and young people living in rural areas have access to online classes, and across the country only 37 per cent are pursuing their education through remote learning.
The main cause of the collapse of the school system is the severe blow inflicted by the coronavirus on the Indian economy. Many families do not have the means to buy computers that would allow their children to learn from home or guarantee them a good Internet connection.
As learning gets more disrupted, the negative effects on education can be seen. Only half of Class (Grade) 5 students can read and understand texts normally intended for Class (Grade) 2.
The report notes that “most parents feel that their child’s reading and writing abilities have gone down during the lockdown”.
This, according to experts, will be followed by a long transition period in which students will have to play catch up to close the gap caused by the pandemic.
Although the biggest limitation is the lack of computers and Internet connection, things are made worse by a series of other negative factors such as the lack of contacts with teachers, inadequate school material available to children, and parents’ low educational level.
The report warns that as schools are an essential service, the authorities ought to rapidly reopen them or there will be an inevitable disaster.
Since the pandemic broke out, private schools have suffered the most from the crisis. About a quarter of those enrolled have moved to the public system because families are in financial dire straits.
What is more, some families are choosing to educate only their sons rather than their daughters, aggravating an already wide gender gap in India’s school system.
Last but not least, social distancing and isolation have taken their toll on the mental health of young people.
According to Prajapatra, a Marathi-language daily published in Beed (Maharashtra), 25 people under 18 have taken their own life in the first seven months of 2021 as a result of loneliness, depression and other psychological issues.
Meanwhile, around 30,000 daily cases have been reported in the South Asian nation, but with a mortality rate that is lower than in May and June.
Only 14.1 per cent of India’s population has been fully vaccinated, while 42.9 per cent have had their first dose.