Digital Education: A Blessing In Disguise Or Some Children Being Overlooked?

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Digital education: A blessing in disguise or are some children being overlooked?

Authored by Shivangi Nigam, Project Officer, Wishes and Blessings

shivangi nigham project officer


From adaptability originates opportunity. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown people into uncharted waters, and they have had to make drastic changes in their everyday lives. The closing of offices, educational institutions, transport facilities, has changed the way people interact with one another and perform their daily tasks. While people have adapted to these changes, it has come at a great cost to the less fortunate sections of society.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way children are being educated. The lockdown has pushed learning from schools into homes. From virtual classrooms to handing out assignments over WhatsApp, technology has played a major role in ensuring that education remains unaffected during this crisis. While this may be true for the privileged class, the reality is quite different for the poor and underprivileged. Though online education is a great way to assist children in their studies, for the underprivileged, it cannot act as a replacement for classroom learning.

 

The lockdown has effectively put a halt on the education of children from rural areas, and low-income households in cities. Lack of access to the internet has deprived them of their right to education. Most of these children who attended government schools have since stopped studying altogether. Even those who chose to continue with their studies have been doing it on their own with little to no help from their teachers and schools. For the majority of children from low-income backgrounds, being at school was the only time they could actually study uninterrupted. As soon as they would go back home, they would have a multitude of housework, which would leave no time for studies. Since they effectively spend all of their days at home, the lines between schoolwork and housework have blurred, leaving them even less time to focus on their education.

 

Many children going to low-cost private schools have since had to drop out, due to insufficient funds to pay school fees. The situation is far direr in the case of girls, who are most likely to be pushed to household duties, child marriages, and may never return to schools. Experts predict that there will be a 20% increase in the dropout rates among girls. According to the Delhi Government, 15% of the students enrolled in government schools have been missing from online classes.

 

According to the United Nations, learning losses also threaten to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress, not least in support of girls and young women’s educational access and retention. Some 23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone. For children coming from low-income households, digital education is clearly not a feasible option; they need continuous monitoring, and the absence of direct interaction with teachers will surely cause them to lag in their studies.

 

This has serious consequences for the future of millions of children. For those born into low-income households, education is the only means out of poverty and the right to a financially secure future. The Education sector now faces serious challenges, this pandemic is already wiping out the years of progress made towards educating the underprivileged and will result in worsening the gap between the rich and the poor. This will have a direct and devastating impact on the economy in the years to come. High unemployment rates, increased poverty, increased child marriages are just a few of the problems that will be compounded by this crisis.

 

It is imperative now more than ever, that the government step in and start investing towards ensuring that these children are not left behind. Although, some of them have been doing self-study, that on its own is not enough, especially since the parents of these children are illiterate and unable to provide any guidance. During these difficult times, NGOs have been working non-stop to ensure that the education of these children is not disrupted. From the distribution of books, stationery items, to being in constant touch with them through mobile phones, non-profits are working hard to make sure that their education is not hindered even as their schools remain closed.

 

Even though the lockdown is temporary, it has a far-reaching impact on the economy as well as the personal lives of millions across the country. Millions of underprivileged children attend low-cost private schools that fear closure due to several reasons. The lockdown has also disrupted many other benefits and provisions necessary for them, such as mid-day meals, which in their cases, was the only meal of the day for most of them. Additionally, it also means an increased gender gap in education, as more and more girls, will be forced to drop out and stay at home. While students from privileged sections of society will not face any long term consequences of a digitalized and virtual education, the same cannot be said for those who belong to the economically weaker sections. Unless measures are implemented at the earliest, the after-effects of the Covid crisis spell only negative outcomes for the underprivileged.

 

 

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