Covid-19 is yet another tragedy that has affected the entire world, left a large number of people helpless, and to contain its spread, most parts of the world are under complete lockdown. Lockdown was the only technique that could have stopped the virus from spreading. Hence, almost all countries went under a complete lockdown. As the number of cases increased in India, a national lockdown was declared from 21st March 2020 onward by the government. All offices started working remotely, and schools switched to online mode.
The lockdown has been difficult for everyone, but it also treated everyone differently. While some people were trying to figure out how to keep themselves engaged at home and explore new hobbies, some were just thinking about how to arrange food for the day; while NRIs were flying back to India from other countries for their safety, many labourers were walking towards their home thousands of kilometres away. When privileged children were sitting in front of their laptops or PCs to attend their classes, underprivileged children got abandoned from education.
According to a survey, 62% of the children in India had to discontinue their studies due to Covid-19. As classes shifted to online mode, many students had to discontinue with their studies as families were ill-equipped with smartphones, laptops or PCs. Around 45% of the households started taking distress measures including credit, mortgage and loan to fulfill their necessities.
A farmer from Himachal Pradesh sold his only cow, the only source of income for his family, to buy a smartphone for the education of his son and daughter, studying in Class 2 and 4 respectively. Kuldeep stated that he was unable to take a loan from the bank and was feeling awful that he couldn’t buy a smartphone for his children’s education. So he decided to give away his only cow to make amends. As schools cannot conduct classes physically, they’ve started teaching students online, because of which a lot of unprivileged children are being forced to give up their studies.
In India, only 54.29% of people use the internet. More than half of the families in rural areas do not own a smartphone, and even the families who own smartphones do not have a stable internet connection, which makes it impossible for young children to attend their classes online. Only private schools can conduct their classes online as they can afford advanced gadgets for digital learning. Rural schools are facing technical difficulties to conduct online classes, the prime reason being unavailability of electricity, internet, laptops and smartphones.
Over 90 lakhs government college students are unable to attend classes. Children admitted under the economically weaker section quota are facing a major problem in attending online classes. Municipal schools are inadequate to take online sessions as they do not have any database through which they can contact children. Even the children studying in these schools are incapable of attending online classes due to scarcity of facilities. Indian union territories and states including Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and other northeastern states do not access to 4G internet, thus increasing the digital divide.
India is already known for its low literacy rate; with these pervasive conditions, the literacy rate will go even further down. Once again, only the privileged class of the county will be able to receive education, and as the literacy rate falls, poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer.
Education is an integral part of a child’s life and a break in their education reflects in their life later. New guidelines are being introduced every day, as Central and state governments circulate new regulations. We must look at Kerala’s initiative on how they have started broadcasting classes on television, making sure no student is deprived of education.
Education is a human right and shouldn’t be divided between the privileged and underprivileged. Education policies should be made in a way so that it can reach children from all spheres and no child is denied education even in times of a pandemic.