Remote Learning, Unequal Reach

Photo Credits: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Roli Srivastav

Virtual learning during pandemic which is responsible for keeping kids out of school has affected the poor disproportionately

Dania Sheikh

WE are soon going to enter the 16 month of the pandemic and it is showing no signs of receding. The virus seems to be growing more virulent with all the new variants that have emerged.The pandemic has disrupted our lives in several ways. One sector which has been one of the hardest hit is the education sector. With the anticipation that the third wave is going to target children as most of the adult population has already been infected, the possibility of reopening of schools seems to be out of the question.

The impact of the closure of schools for such a prolonged period has been tremendous. There has been an uptick in mental health issues among children because of the uncertainty induced by the pandemic. The suspension of physical classes has not only taken a blow at student's education but also their physical, emotional, and mental well being.

In the case of children belonging to the marginalized sections, they have also faced nutritional inadequacies because of the non-availability of mid-day meals. This section of our society has suffered disproportionately. Lack of adequate resources and internet facilities has inhibited them from continuing their education. According to an India sped report, only 15% of rural households have access to internet facilities and this figure drops down further in the case of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and women. Their education has taken a nosedive but this isn’t their only concern, they have more pressing issues to deal with.

The pandemic has not only brought their education to a standstill but has also posed a threat to their lives. A UNESCO report states that children belonging to marginalized families are at an increased risk of infection due to the lack of access to water and soap and the impossibility of physical distancing. The economic hit back suffered by the marginalized section has brought a change in their priorities, their primary concern during these desperate times is to sustain themselves, and they're doing everything in their capacity to make ends meet. A Brut India report showed that many children, children as young as 4 are being pushed into child labor and child trafficking by their parents to bring food to the table. The report reveals that children are being pushed into sexual labor for something as basic as 2kg of atta/flour. This tells us a lot about the plight of the impoverished in our country.

The government has several policies in place to address the needs of the marginalized sections but the stories that are emerging on social media show that there has been a failure of the execution of these well-intended policies.

The ramifications of the setback of the education sector are not transient, even after the pandemic gets over and schools reopen, there’ll be many who won’t return to schools, especially girls. This is because of the sexist parochial notion which prevails predominantly in rural areas. Many surveys reveal that there has been an upsurge in child marriages. As the old saying goes, a stitch in time saves 9’; it is high time that the government gets alert and takes the necessary steps to ensure that education is not disrupted because if this continues unabated, it is going to create other problems which will be difficult to resolve.

Education is the antidote for most of the problems that we are encountering, neglecting it will take us in a downhill spiral. It is well established that a lower literacy rate heightens the crime rate and other social evils in the society. Moreover, turning a blind eye to the catastrophe suffered by the marginalized sections is not only inhumane but against the utilitarian principle(maximum happiness of the maximum number) that the world operates by, it will reverse the progress that our country has made over the past 70 years. It is appalling that at a time when there should have been an increase In the budget allotted to the educational sector, we have witnessed that it has been reduced. There is an urgent need to ameliorate the education sector by spending adequately, bridging the digital divide is crucial to deliver justice to millions of children who are excluded because of being situated in the lower socioeconomic strata, the welfare system has to be bolstered to develop human capital. A country that has been founded on socialist principles must assume its duty, carry out the constitutional mandate and make the necessary intervention to ensure social justice.

  • The author is a student at University of Delhi 

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