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Why Covid-19 has increased the divide between Urban and Rural Population in the Education sector.

About the author

Aditi Sahu is a 1 st year BBA LLB (Hons) student in the School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be

University). She has a keen interest in the Law of Tort.

Introduction

The rise of Covid-19 cases across the globe has led to nationwide lockdowns. Every sector has

adapted itself in these unprecedented times. The education sector has faced many challenges in

adjusting to the new way of life. According to a report by UNICEF, schools for more than 168

a million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to the

COVID-19 lockdown 1 s. The sector has hence moved from traditional methods of teaching to an

online mode of education. India too has shifted from offline classes to a virtual classroom. In

India, over 320 million learners have been affected by the pandemic 2 . While every student has

faced challenges in adjusting to these challenging times, some groups have been more

disadvantaged than others. This blog aims to shed light on the impacts of Covid-19 on urban and

rural populations in the Indian education sector and provide recommendations for the same.  


According to a report by UNICEF, More than 1.5 billion children and young people have been

affected by school closures worldwide 3 . The World bank quantified the impact of school closures

in monetary terms and estimated that India is estimated to lose $440 billion (Rs 32.3 lakh crore)

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1 UNICEF, ‘COVID-19: Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for

almost a full year, says UNICEF’(10 March 2021), UNICEF, <https://www.unicef.org/india/press-releases/covid-

19-schools-more-168-million-children-globally-have-been-completely-closed>

2 UNESCO, ‘Covid shut schools, but teachers making sure learning is not stopped in India’, UNICEF,

https://en.unesco.org/news/covid-shut-schools-teachers-making-sure-learning-not-stopped-india

3 UNICEF,’ Children at increased risk of harm online during global COVID-19 pandemic’,

UNICEF,https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/children-increased-risk-harm-online-during-global-covid-19-

pandemic

4 World Bank, South Asia Economic Focus, Fall 2020: Beaten or Broken? Informality and COVID-19

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------in possible future earnings. The lockdown has had a diverse impact on the global education

sector. It led to the genesis of virtual classrooms, where students and teachers are able to interact

in real-time, even if they are hundreds of kilometers away. The benefits of online classes are

innumerable, however, these benefits have been denied to rural sectors in India.  The challenges

faced by the rural sector have further deepened their disparity with the urban population. Some

of the reasons are enumerated below


1. It has enhanced the digital divide - 

One of the major challenges that online education has faced is that most rural households

in India do not have a stable connection to the internet. They do not have the necessary

infrastructure to support going online. 

According to a survey done by the National Statistical Office during 2017-18, it was

found that only 24% of the population has an internet connection 5. This disparity is more

prominent in the rural population. The survey in 2017-18 also showed that only about

15% of rural households have an active internet connection 6. The lack of internet has

affected different groups differently. Women have been more harshly impacted than men.

According to a report by Internet and Mobile Association India, only 33% of women

have access to the internet whereas 67% of men have internet. In rural areas, the number

of female users of the internet dips to 28% 7. Moreover, a survey was done by Quacquarelli

Symonds, a London-based company, stated that " the infrastructure in terms of

technology in India has not achieved a state of quality so as to ensure sound delivery of

online classes to students across the country.” 8 In such circumstances, the development of

infrastructure is more likely to occur in cities instead of remote villages.  

. Access to technology-

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5 National Statistical Office, Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India. (NSS- 75

Round, 2017-2018), Chp 3

6 National Statistical Office, Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India. (NSS- 75

Round, 2017-2018), Chp 3

7 Internet and Mobile Association India, India Internet 2019, (2019)

8 Quacqurelli Symonds, COVID-19: A wake-up call for telecom service providers, (2020)

_____________________________________________________________________________

For online education to be successful, it is imperative for every student to possess some

form of technological device. Laptops or desktops act as an optimal choice for the same.

They have larger screens, which cause less stress on the eyes, and they allow users to

browse various sites at once. However, not all sections of society have equal access to

technology. A survey by the National Survey Organisation (NSO) revealed that only

24% of people own and know how to operate laptops in rural India as compared to 56% 9

in the urban areas.  However, most rural households do own smartphones.

. The power supply in rural households is bleak

Access to electricity in rural India has caused many obstacles. The Saubhagya scheme or

the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana was launched in 2017. The scheme

aimed to provide electricity to the whole of India. It accomplished 99.93% electrification,

however, this image is quite distorted. The figure does not account for the power cuts

faced by many households on a daily basis. Amongst major states, Haryana villages

receive electricity 15.64 hours daily, Jharkhand households receive only 9 hours. The

students are unable to attend classes and cannot access online resources.

The above-mentioned causes are a few of the reasons why online education has further deepened

the divide between urban and rural sectors. The lack of a stable internet connection and power

deny rural students their right. They are neither able to attend classes nor study from reference

materials. While online resources are a boon to education, as they are available 24/7 to their

users, students living in remote areas have been wrongfully refused their access.

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Recommendations

The pandemic has exposed the gap between urban and rural populations in India. However, there

is a potential to improve the current situation and to boost the rural sector in the field of

education. Some of the recommendations are enlisted below.

1. Improve the access to the internet in villages-

Access to the internet in villages would help students in attending online classes and

referring to materials posted online. The government, in this aspect,

9 National Statistical Office, Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India. (NSS- 75

Round, 2017-2018), Chp 3


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Bharat net Project. The Bharatnet project, which aims to provide broadband to 2.5 lakh

gram panchayats in the country through the optic fiber to improve connectivity.

. Increase expenditure on digital infrastructure- 

The government needs to increase its spending on digital infrastructure, especially in

rural areas, to create an environment that supports online education. The Ministry of

Human Resource Development reduced its budget for online education from 604 crores

in 2019-20 to 469 crores in 2020-21. The view of the government on online education

needs to change in order to bring about any substantial difference

 

The covid-19 lockdown has brought to light the disparity between urban and rural populations.

Education is just one sector to analyze the difference. The pandemic however brought new

opportunities to propel the education sector from its current standing. The government and

society must try their best to limit the disparity between the two sectors and increase overall

growth.

DATE- 14 th June 2021

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