In a virtual discussion series on MISSION 3-5-8, a nationwide campaign on education, experts urged the state government to focus on school infrastructure and use the lockdown as an opportunity to start remedial classes to help weaker students learn faster.
Organised by Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha, Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha and Atmashakti Trust, more than 100 CSO representatives across the state joined the discussions entitled Policy, Planning and Approaches of School Education During COVID-19. They talked about the lack of required school infrastructure and the woes of online education that has left lakhs of rural children’s education in the lurch.
Participating in the discussion, Ghasiram Panda, National Manager of ActionAid and an Advisor on RtE to Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said:
“COVID has made us comprehend once again that we are far behind in fulfilling the norms and standards for our schools as envisaged in RtE. It has been the major bottleneck in achieving the minimum level of learning.“
“School infrastructure should also be seen stand-alone where it can be designed to be seen as a community resource centre, as in most of the villages these are the only infrastructure to be used in any disaster,” he added.
“Children, mostly from poor-families, who study in government-run schools, are the worst sufferers as their learning has taken a halt. Though state governments have offered several online classes, both teachers and students are facing challenges as there is an absence of physical classrooms and proper digital infrastructure. The disparity in access to smartphones, computer, electricity and internet connections also pose a challenge to mitigate the learning gap,” stated the participants in the discussion.
According to the information shared by School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash, more than 20 lakh children are attending online classes so far offered by the government, which stands at only 33.33 %. However, data from secondary sources claims that only 6 lakh children have benefited from the programme so far. Online classes cannot ensure the education of all children, especially the marginalised, who do not have a smartphone or a laptop added with the costly affair of buying an internet pack.
“Schools are more than learning centres for poor children. It’s where they reflect their feelings and the institution promotes democratic value. Schools also provide social protection, nutrition, health and emotional support to the most disadvantaged. Therefore, the state government should immediately start remedial classes for the students so that the learning gap can be bridged,” the participants urged the government.