Radhika*, a teacher at a government-aided school in Delhi has been taking online classes for her students ever since schools closed due to lockdown. In the initial days of taking these classes, while she was still adjusting to the entire process, she came across a family of three daughters and one son that was reluctant to allow their daughters to take the lectures. The parents claimed that online classes for four children consumed a lot of internet and they did not have enough money to spend on their internet connection. They told her that they had decided to let their son carry on with his classes and pull their daughters out.

Girls are required to work at home and help their mothers. Many families that are experiencing a cash crunch today are searching for extra sources of income and so, many girls are even sent to other houses as maids or help their mothers in making achar, papad etc

While the lockdown has affected our lives in many ways, not much attention is being paid to how favouritism and patriarchy have found their way back into our household, due to limited resources and a drastic change in our lifestyle. When pushed to a corner, many parents chose to prioritise their son’s education, because at the end of the day he is the one who will bring glory to his family, carrying forward the lineage, and also care for his parents in their old age. The daughters, on the other hand, will marry into other households, so what’s the point of spending precious resources on them in this situation. When the teacher tried to argue that they shouldn’t discriminate between a girl and a boy, the parents said, “At least we were going to allow our daughters to study till 12th otherwise girls in our family are not encouraged to go to school.”

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When asked what could be the reason behind not allowing the girls to take their lectures, the teacher told SheThePeople, “I don’t think it wouldn’t have happened at all if the situation was normal and they had to come to the class every day paying 20 rupees per month. But this is happening specifically now because parents of these girls don’t have enough money to cater to the needs of the family let alone arranging internet for online classes of 3-4 children. Also, girls are required to work at home and help their mothers. Many families that are experiencing a cash crunch today are searching for extra sources of income and so, many girls are even sent to other houses as maids or help their mothers in making achar, papad etc.”

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Will Online Education Affect Female Literacy?

Like the family of these three girls, there are many families who may be reluctant to educate their daughters right now. Why? Firstly because online education is not approachable and affordable for everyone because of the extra capital that it requires. There are towns and villages that are still deprived of a proper network, 24×7 electricity and smartphones or PCs that are essential tools for an online class. This affects the regular and progressive process of learning. Secondly, as Radhika pointed out, education for girls comes low in the priority list in households where manpower is needed to take care of household chores. The savings for her dowry and marriage takes precedence over her education. In such a restricted scenario if a girl’s education requires effort and money, it is unlikely that families would agree to it.

There are towns and villages that are still deprived of a proper network, 24×7 electricity and smartphones or PCs that are essential tools for an online class.

Pinki Devi, a mother of three daughters and a son who earns her living by working as a housemaid, told SheThePeople, “My daughters aren’t able to continue their education under the lockdown. Before with the help of school and personal tutor, they continued their studies. But since I am facing financial difficulties even if their school is offering online classes I can’t afford it. I feel like they have forgotten everything they had learned till now. I have no other option than to involve them in household work or take them along with me to the kothis where I work.”

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Online education can have two different meanings, depending on what life has been like for you under the lockdown. For girls born into well-to-do progressive families, it is just a change from the process of learning that they are used to. For girls born into impoverished or conservative families, it could be a lost chance, that was way low on the priority list of their parents who are struggling to make ends meet, or simply see education a privilege that only boys are worthy of. Unless the discriminatory mindset goes away, girls will always have to struggle to study at one front or the other, whether we live in the time of a pandemic or not.

*The person’s name has been changed on request.

Picture Credit: Pxhere

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