COVID-19 IMPACTS ON CHILD EDUCATION IN INDIA
Updated: Mar 14
DATE- 17th June 2021 COVID -19 IMPACTS ON CHILD EDUCATION IN INDIA
“Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning."-Sustainable Development Goal No. 4. India shifted to digitization in the majority of fields due to pandemics. However, online education is not reachable to social, economic, or differently-abled students, violating their Right to Education provided by the Indian Constitution. Online Education degrades the quality of education, affecting the children’s capacity and capability to understand. Technology is proven to be not able-enough for differently-abled children violating their right to access information and equal opportunity provided by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Online education is an agreeable alternate at the present need of the hour but decisions in lieu of it aren't rational- causing mental health issues. Education and mental health neither can happen without the other. Inclusive education is possible if respective authorities back those suffering from social, economic, or any disability hedging their chance to educate.
Keywords- Children, Education, Health, Pandemic, differently-abled andRight
Online Child Education – An inclusive Mode?
With the current pandemic crisis, online education is an alternate mode of learning for children. Various platforms such as Whatsapp, Youtube, Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft teams, and Jio meet kept the teachers reachable. Implying, even though it’s a virtual mode it will not stop child’s education across the country. But is it true? Is online education accessible to all? What about the ever-existing urban and rural gap? Considering, the problems they are facing it won’t be wrong to say they are suffering at a huge deal and the gap is stretching more to the edge. Due to lack of financial stability, proper home environment, electronic-gadgets, internet or even the electricity, it can't be considered 'boon' in the time of crisis for all instead to some marginalized number of people. While there is a scarcity of medical resources and insufficient savings to buy essentials, the rise in fees by private schools is cruel and inhumane. Education is essential for the mental and psychological development of a child. Bearing in mind the importance, it was made part of fundamental right under Art 21-A of the Indian Constitution ensuring "free and compulsory education to all 6 to 14 years".The pandemic has shaken education structure to its core because many schools are unable to impart digital education in rural areas, lack of digital resources made it inaccessible to those with low income. UNICEF has pointed the very situation by stating that out of four only one has access to the internet and digital devices.[ii]According to annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2020[iii], a survey was conducted where parents pointed out reasons their children were unable to access learning materials, (a) government school - 10.7 % students don't have access to the internet, 25.8% have no smartphones, 5.1% have connectivity issues, 68.5% schools don't send material and 4.3% have other issues. (b) Private schools- 11.6% students don't have access to the internet, 20.4% have no smartphones, 5.2% have connectivity issues, 6.0% have other issues and 66.9% school doesn’t send material. Moreover, all those who used to cross long miles to study alongside the meals are under threat of malnourishment. Only a few states put up with the situation and deliver the meals at their gates. Assam (95.02%), Kerala (94.50%), and West Bengal (94.06%) are the best performing states, on the other hand, Uttar Pradesh (57.08%), Bihar (59.39%), and Jharkhand (61.45%) are the worst performings.[iv]Rural areas might be developed comparing to what it was a few years back but it’s still not urban enough. The quality of education children receive in private and public schools differs. Why government open schools to ensure "education to all", but not standardize education to all? Recently the government announced to pay for the education of those children whose both parents has died due to COVID-19 ensuring their fees will be taken care of by PM cares fund[v]. But who’s there to make sure they will go to school? Is govt. keeping a track of those who lost both his parent? What if the bread-earner has died, will govt. still, take care of that child into their policy? Presently, there’s no statement justifying it. Online Education might be a helpful source for those in universities but to primary classes, it's nowhere near to what they could have learned in physical schools or with a better strategic approach. Learning before a screen is not enough, they lose interest in the study due to lack of interaction and fun-play. But taking into account the present situation, India is not wholly digital, resourceful, or skilled enough to provide online education to all, irrespective of what economic or social background a child has.
Is Technology able enough for differently-abled?
“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”– Rabindranath Tagore. In the advent of the 21st century, where people are coming forward to fight for their rights, the 'right to education for children with disabilities (CWD) can no more adhere to ignorance. Time and again differently-abled have shown the power of will and have proven that if given an opportunity their disability is just a matter of lack in human flesh and it does not make them any less human beings. Today, technology and our policies are advancing as per the requirement of the majority as well minority, ensuring we walk hand in hand.
In the present crisis where work from office shifted to work from home, and education in schools shifted to online education at home, left behind those who can’t be part of a paradigm shift due to lack of infrastructure and technology. The differently-abled are suffering, for they need the support of authorities and teachers to study. Their requirements vary as per their impairment such as one’s who can’t hear requires sign language to understand and visually impaired requires audio recordings or high-quality images. Although, we are moving towards digitization but are we stocked enough to shift? Does every child have what requires for digital education? Is online education an inclusive education? Evidently, not.75%[vi] of differently-abled children doesn’t go to school. Left 25%, the majority are suffering due to lack of 'able technology.
While instating ‘online education, institutes failed to comply with Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016meanwhile govt. failed to comply with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. According to toS.16 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, it is the duty of educational institutions to ensure understandable mode & means of communication and monitor their participation which they failed. Because if monitored they would have known that Google meet and Zoom platforms aren’t enough for those with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilitiesobligate states to design, develop, produce and distribute accessible information, communication, and technology to all along with equal opportunity to educate and participate.
Online Education and mental health-
Art 21-A provides the Right to education to children of age group 6 to 14 years is the extension of Art-21 i.e. Right to life. Justifying education to be an essential part of life. But not to forget, the Right to life also consists right to health. Thereby, both are important for a child and neither can surpass the other. In a hard time like the present, children are suffering from domestic abuse, violence, stress, anxiety, depression, child marriage, mourning the loss of a family member, cyber-bullying, and malnourishment all causing mental health issues. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said, “The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable”. Online education is not helping instead certain institutes are bullying and pressurizing children by burdening them with work and deadlines. Private institutes are shamelessly asking for fees without hearing out the parent’s plead of – 'incapability at the moment.Children are acting out due to their inability to study the material provided by schools without resources, mentors, and classroom interaction. Pandemic has snatched away from their emotional and social support, rather than bound them to technology. Those in adolescence, are feeling stuck, suffocate, and anxious since they are caged, meanwhile, their bodies are triggering hormones resulting in changes in behavioral patterns. Education is essential but it requires a healthy mind to grasp it. Thence, it’s essential to balance education and mental health. Certain suggestive pointers are provided by the author to balance the same- (a) Schools must have counselors to keep a check on children and their well-being. (b) Teachers must console the children in the time of need (c) Deadline for submitting Homework and Assignments must be flexible enough for those incapable to meet them due to valid reasons. (d) Teachers must be available to guide and mentor children ( e) Controlled hours of teaching would prevent eye strain and headaches. (f) Fees must not cause problem to child's education if parents are incapable either institute play flexible role or government must come forward with helping hand. ( g) Parents must talk to their kins, calm them and understand their requirement. These can solve issues for some but certain factors affecting mental health is beyond suggestive pointers, it’s part of dark reality for some. Education or online education is not the problem causing the issue of mental health, certain actions are taken in lieu of it certainly are, otherwise, it's more of a solution for the factors leading to it at first instance.
Prevailing crisis implies a huge impact on child education. The pattern of academics has shifted to virtual, bridging a wider gap between children belonging to rural and urban hometowns as well schools situated in those areas. The social and economic backgrounds of the child are taking a heavy toll upon their education. Art 21-A of the Indian Constitution i.e. RIGHT TO EDUCATION is violating since many parents lost their jobs causing an inability to deposit fees, an increase in fees by private schools, lack of electronic resources, and to some hospital billscosttheir education. Online education might currently be the sole alternate to physical classes but not the best. While the country is bleeding, differently-abled are suffering in their nests. Lack of disability-friendly technology is costing differently-abled an opportunity to educate. Arman Ali, executive director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) stated, "This pandemic has pushed people with disabilities behind by two-three decades”.[vii]Factors are leading to mental health issues in children resulting in emotional distress, anger, and behavior patterns. Concluding, India is not digitally advance enough to fulfill the need of all. Also, Government did provide differently-abled or economically backward COVID health facilities but education was clearly not the prime choice.
[i] B.A.LL.B (Hons.), 4th year Law Student of Seedling School of Law & Governance, Jaipur National University [ii]https://thewire.in/education/covid-19-induced-school-closures-impacted-247-million-indian-children-unicef [iii]Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2020 Wave 1, Feb1,2021; http://img.asercentre.org/docs/ASER%202021/ASER%202020%20wave%201%20-%20v2/aser2020wave1report_feb1.pdf [iv]https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/nutrition-what-ails-india-mid-day-meal-programme-40516/ [v]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/government-to-support-kids-who-lost-parents-to-covid-19-via-pm-cares/articleshow/83065497.cms [vi]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/excluding-the-excluded-indias-response-to-the-education-of-children-with-disabilities-during-covid-19/ [vii]https://www.firstpost.com/india/amid-a-pandemic-lockdown-and-govt-apathy-ngos-ensure-online-education-addresses-learning-needs-of-disabled-children-8460271.html Written by Riya Agarwal, Research Intern, Stambh Organization India