Two days ago, on August 16, schools in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, were reportedly reopened for grades 9 to 12 with 50 percent attendance. Another circular issued by the state government today, August 18, informs that education in public schools for grades 6 to 8 will begin from August 23, while for standards 1 to 5, it will start from September 1st. All COVID19 protocols must be followed at the school which had been closed since March of last year.
“From August 23 after Rakshabandhan, a resumption of teaching activity may be considered for classes 6 to 8, while it could be the same for classes 1 to 5 from September 1”, can we read in the government circular of August 18.
With the decrease in COVID19 cases, several other states are considering reopening schools as it has been almost a year and a half and educational institutes across the country are closed due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Also read: Education suspended: Amid COVID lockdown, children in rural India will suffer the most
According to UNESCO, India’s 3.2 million students have experienced the fifth longest school lockdown in the world and these children are at risk of falling behind due to school closure and many may have already dropped out and could never go back to the education system.
Given the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on children’s education, the Forum for the Right to Education, a platform of national education networks aimed at achieving the goal of equitable education and quality for all children, demanded the reopening of schools.
“Enough is enough. It is time to unblock education in India,” the Forum for the Right to Education (RTE) said in its August 14 press release.
The Forum said it was time for the Indian state to realize its constitutional responsibility to the country’s children. He stressed the need for a better public education system which helps India to emerge from this time of crisis.
To achieve this, the RTE Forum has formulated 13 demands. These include bridging the emerging digital divide to meet the educational needs of the poor in India, including tribal children, girls, orphans from COVID19; develop a long-term policy on “education in emergencies” to ensure preparedness for future crises; protect children from abuse, trafficking, child marriage; and impose a moratorium on private schools raising their fees during the pandemic.
These requests were also shared during a webinar hosted by the Forum on August 12, attended by MPs including Manoj Kumar Jha (Rajya Sabha, Bihar) and Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (Rajya Sabha, Uttar Pradesh), to discuss the COVID19. the pandemic has created challenges for the continued school education of millions of children in the country.
During the webinar, the Forum also highlighted that schools and early childhood education and care services (ECCE, such as anganwadis) the centers do more than educate children, they are a place of socialization, they provide nutritious meals and offer social protection to the poor. However, “the closed schools have deprived Indian children of more than just a chance to learn,” he said.
64% of children in rural areas fear giving up
A 2020 survey titled ‘Perception, fears and preparation for the reopening of schools’, by a Delhi-based nonprofit ChildFund, found that 64% of children in rural India feared dropping out without additional support to address their program’s learning gaps.
A 2021 study titled The inequality virus by Oxfam India, an international non-profit organization, found that less than 15% of rural households reported having an internet connection at the start of the pandemic when schooling moved online. No less than 96% of the households of the listed castes and tribes did not have a computer.
Another 2020 survey by Oxfam India, ‘Situation report – Government and private school during COVID-19 ‘, found that 80% of parents in government and 59% of private schools said education was not effectively provided during the COVID19 pandemic.
When the education system needed help the most, India’s national education budget suffered cuts in the 2021 Union budget, the Right to Education Forum pointed out.
This year, the central government reduced the education allowance by about six percent. The education sector has been allocated Rs 932.24 billion for 2021, including Rs 548.73 billion for school education and literacy and Rs 383.50 billion for the higher education sector.
During the August 14 webinar, Muchkund Dubey, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Council for Social Development (CSD), emphasized the decision to send children back to school with adequate protection for them as well as for them. teachers.
“All developing countries have made sending children to school a priority to avoid a huge loss to the nation,” he said.
The 13 demands
Mitra Ranjan, coordinator at the National Secretariat of the RTE Forum, presented the 13 demands of the Forum to Unlock Education and asked MPs to present these demands to their respective constituencies for approval.
- Return all children to school for full or partial in-person instruction.
- Ensure that this reopening is done in a safe and inclusive manner, activate existing community mechanisms to identify those at risk and take action to protect children from abuse, exploitation and violence in all its forms, including child labor, child marriage and trafficking.
- Protect constitutional rights to equality in education by addressing the emerging digital divide and developing clear strategies to meet the educational needs of poor and marginalized groups in India, including girls, people with disabilities , dalits, adivasis, minorities and new categories of excluded such as COVID orphans and children of migrants in the response.
- Place a moratorium on private schools that increase their fees during the pandemic.
- Increase budget allocations for education respecting the minimum of six percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to ensure continued learning for all children, especially those from marginalized groups.
- Develop a long-term policy on education in emergencies to ensure preparedness for future crises.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, just after a week of schools reopening in Punjab on August 2, up to 27 students tested positive for COVID19 in five public schools in the districts of Ludhiana, Abohar, Nawanshahr and Amritsar. in the Punjab.
Also read: Punjab: One week after schools reopen, 27 students test positive for COVID19
The government of Maharashtra has announced the reopening of schools in areas where coronavirus cases are under control. On August 10, the Minister of School Education, Varsha Gaikwad, said that students in grades 5 to 12 will be allowed to attend classes in rural areas from August 17 and in urban areas students in classes 8 to 12 will be allowed to visit the schools.
However, a day later, the state’s Education Department suspended its decision to reopen schools after objections from its COVID19 task force. One of the members of the task force is said to have said that children under the age of 18 are not vaccinated and that an impending third wave could affect them.
Also read: Children over 12 with co-morbidities who may be vaccinated first; Maharashtra government suspends reopening of schools