13 Jul Prioritizing school reopening on the road to recovery (The Hindu, GS-2, Education)
Context:- The schools in India have been closed since the national lockdown which was started in March 2020. These successive lockdowns have posed some fundamental questions about the current condition and a future perspective.
The fundamental questions are:-
- What are the costs of keeping schools closed?
- How do these costs compare against the risks of school reopening?
- What will this do to the future of India’s children?
- Does it not push the next generation deeper into poverty?
Let’s Explore these question with the statistics:-
- According to The Lancet study, India will stabilise its population 12 years earlier than expected .
- There are 253 million adolescent which make India’s adolescent population among the largest.
- India’s Population over 62% of India is aged between 15 and 59 years at the same time the median age of the population is less than 30 years.
- According to the World Bank, India’s public expenditure on education constituted 4.4% of GDP in 2019 and 3.4% of GDP in 2020 only.
- In India almost 32 crore students have been affected by the nationwide lockdown due to COVID19 and out of it, 15.8 Crore are the female children.
- According to the International Labour Organization, 65% of adolescents worldwide have reported learning less during the pandemic, and at the same time 51% felt that their learning would be further delayed.
- According to the International Labour Organization, 17% of young people are likely to be suffering from anxiety and depression.
Why should India prioritise school reopening?
- There have been various regions around the world which are worse hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic than India, have kept their schools, especially primary schools, mostly open.
- People make considerable investments in their childrens’ education for a better future, so anything which hampers their future must be terminated.
- In India the bottom half of children passing Class 10 are about two years behind in terms of skills as they should have and a prolonged school closure has already widened this gap.
- A survey across 10 States in India in November 2020 has estimated that nearly two thirds of children in rural India may drop out of school which will cause a bleak future and may push these children into poverty.
- Haryana has reported a 42% drop in student enrolment in private schools, this may further exacerbate the already dim situation in Indian schools.
- A Prolonged school shutdown has severely set back India’s fight against ills such as child labour and child marriage .
- Shutdown of schools due to lockdown has disrupted midday meal schemes.
- In Las Vegas, U.S.A, Asurge of student suicides forced schools to reopen in January 2021.
- There is a 40% rise in the number of children taking antidepressants.
- Children are at much lower risk of COVID19 than for adults.
- COVID19 in the age group of children is less than half as risky as seasonal influenza, and over 20 times less risky than death by “unintentional injury”.
- A recent study in Sweden says among the nearly two million children, there was not a single child death due to COVID19.
- The newer variant Delta is much less dangerous than the original which is the expected evolutionary path of a virus.
- The risk of spread and infection of COVID19 in schools is minimal compared to other locations.
What are the issues in the Indian Primary Schools:-
- Shortage of teachers is one of prominent factors in the slow expansion of compulsory primary education which is due to poor remunerations.
- Indian primary education is underfunded.
- Indian primary education is ill equipped with the infrastructure, resources etc.
- The burden of primary education in almost every State rests on local bodies, that is, on municipal and district boards.
- Poor quality of institutional support for teachers which enhance professional development.
- Currently there is a wave of digital education which has its own set of problems:
- There is a dearth of digital devices with the teachers and at the same time with the students.
- A digital divide which can be seen in rural and urban and among the rural society and urban society as well.
Effects of School shutdown:-
- With Increased poverty levels in India, this COVID-19 pandemic may lead to early marriages of girls in India because child marriage is consider as a strategy to address household poverty has been noted in India in general.
- This COVID-19 pandemic may increases in gender based violence
- Adolescent girls are at a very high risk during this COVID-19 pandemic, given the vulnerability of adolescent girls to abuse and trafficking, especially if primary caregivers fall ill or die.
- Girls are at the risk of violence at home at the hands of caregivers or partners.
What is the way forward:-
- The Government must treat teachers and support staff on a par with essential workers, and offer these forerunners of education a prioritised vaccination.
- Any medical intervention must be based on a careful risk benefit analysis, especially for children.
- “one size fits all” policy may not be suitable.
- Parents who can afford to work from home and have sufficient resources for their children, may choose to continue with partially or fully online classes for a time being.
- Policymakers must make evidence based decisions toward school reopening and for any upcoming exigency.
- We have to prioritise the vaccination of teachers and school support staff.
- We have to prioritise our vaccination approach by allowing a decentralised approach where district level officials may reopen schools based on local COVID19 transmission rates.
- Collaborative actions by key ministries, government agencies, and civil society will be central to developing a holistic and meaningful solution.
- An incentive for parents to send their children to school on the assurance of one nutritious meal.
- The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Education Ministry must collaborate to disseminate key information to help adolescents safeguard their health and ability to learn.
- Delivery of menstrual hygiene products to adolescents where teachers can work as volunteers in collaboration with frontline health workers to distribute sanitary napkins to girls.
- The Health and Education Ministries should strengthen outreach via existing helplines and by enabling conversations on critical issues of mental health of adolescents and their reproductive and sexual health.
- Improving the lives of our adolescents in mission mode would lift their lives.
Plutus IAS Current Affair Team Member