Despite launching online classes for students, strategies and follow-up measures around 27 crore kids have been affected by the closure of schools, a latest UNICEF report stated. The country is desperately aiming to reopen schools between July and August. The report said, “In India, school closures have impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary education and 28 million children who were attending pre-school education in anganwadi centres.”
“This is in addition to the more than 6 million girls and boys who were already out of school prior to the Covid-19 crisis,” it added.
The report also claimed that a massive number of children aren’t privileged enough to have access to the internet while only a handful of 24 percent households was estimated to have got the opportunity of online learning. “There was a large rural-urban and gender divide in access to internet services,” UNICEF said. India began closing down schools and colleges temporarily during the second week of March.
What You Should Know
- A UNICEF report said that around 27 crore kids in India have been impacted by the closing down of schools during the lockdown.
- A large number of children can’t afford to access or use technology for education, the report claims.
- Only a quarter of households (24%) were estimated to have access to the internet.
- The report said at least 600 million South Asian children have been affected.
“In addition, there are ongoing efforts to provide textbooks to all school going children at their homes, even in the remotest parts of India. NCERT prepared an alternative academic calendar for classes 1-12 with suggested activities to guide learning at home,” it said, pointing out that from India’s perspective, for most families accessing technology is a huge challenge.
The aim was to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The report has also highlighted the issues related to child protection. “‘CHILDLINE’, a service of the Ministry of Women and Child Development had received 460,000 calls in 21 days from March 20 to April 10,” it explained in the report about how they managed to handle a 50 per cent increase from their regular call volumes.
“Nearly 10,000 of these were intervention cases which required CHILDLINE staff to reach the children in need of support. Of these 30 per cent were related escalation in violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage and child labour,” said the report.
‘Children are chronically malnourished’
The report also stated that not only academic vulnerability but Indian kids are suffering from health issues too. It said that most vulnerable families can’t access to affordable and nutritious food for children, “In India, around 20 million children under five years of age are suffering from wasting, over 40 million children are chronically malnourished and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.”
Quoting the study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Lancet Global Health Journal, “due to reductions in routine health service coverage levels, disruption in life-saving immunisation activities and an increase in child wasting, up to 3,00,000 children could die in India alone in the next six months.”
What experts are saying
Warning about the unprecedented risk, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, told TOI, “The mass reverse migration from cities to rural India as a result of estimated 118 million job losses have caused extreme hardship for millions of people.”
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, had told in an interview that shutting down of schools was necessary but it comes with a warning of “potential for increased drop-out rates that will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage.”
According to the guidelines laid down by the UN agencies,”Schools do much more than teach children how to read, write and count. They also provide nutrition, health and hygiene services; mental health and psychosocial support; and dramatically reduce the risk of violence, early pregnancy and more. And it’s the most vulnerable children who are the hardest hit by school closures, and we know from previous crises that the longer they are out of school, the less likely they are to return.”
Feature Image Credit: The Hindu