Why Covid-19 has increased the divide between Urban and Rural Population in the Education sector.
Updated: Mar 14
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)
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-
2 UNESCO, ‘Covid shut schools, but teachers making sure learning is not stopped in India’, UNICEF,
3 UNICEF,’ Children at increased risk of 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-
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.
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
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- 14th June 2021
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.