Anju (name changed), a teacher in a low-income private school in Delhi, had 30 children in her class before the pandemic began, out of which only 17 are attending online classes. They are amongst the 11% of the school children in India who are able to attend online classes, according to the 2020 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).
According to a 2018 Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation report, only 23.8% of Indian households have an internet connection. It also found that only 20% of people age 5 years and above are able to use the internet.
As per a 2020 survey by Oxfam, 20% of parents of children studying in government schools reported that education was being delivered during the lockdown compared to 41% for private schools.
“Most of the teachers limit themselves to providing students with one worksheet per week. They have no incentives to conduct online classes; most of them have not been paid since April last year,” Anju says.
Most government and low-income private schools are currently offering asynchronous learning, where students are given worksheets and expected to learn independently. However, most children cannot cope with it due to the absence of a supportive learning environment at home.
“Education has been reduced to a formality by schools. My children have always struggled to understand the concepts; how can they learn any better with just worksheets?” asks Praveen (name changed), whose children study in a low-income private school. The 34-year-old has herself studied in a Hindi medium school and struggles to support her children with studies.
The pandemic has also added to the already prevailing gender divide in education. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, women accounted for just 29% of India’s online population.
Girish (name changed), who teaches in an all-girls government school in Delhi, tried to provide his students with donated smartphones but received a backlash from some parents who feared smartphones would spoil their girls. “Many girls in my class cannot access online education because of the burden of household chores and male siblings being given preference for the use of smartphones,” he says.