64% kids in rural India fear they have to drop out if not given additional support: Survey (The Print)

New Delhi: As many as 64 per cent of the children in rural India fear they might have to drop out of school if not provided with additional support to cope with the learning gaps in their curriculum, according to a survey published Friday.

Conducted by Delhi-based NGO ChildFund India across 20 backward districts in 10 states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — in November 2020, the survey was carried out among 1,725 children, 1,605 parents, and 127 teachers.

The assessment report, titled, ‘Perception, Fears and Readiness for Reopening of Schools’, found that 84 per cent of the parents and 83 per cent of the children want schools to reopen.

The states surveyed witnessed the heaviest inflow of migrant labourers, and their children faced immense challenges in re-enrolling in schools due to lack of documents.

More than 50 per cent parents witnessed increased negative behaviour in their kids and more than 60 per cent children themselves also expressed experiencing changes in their behaviour. These included an increase in anger and irritability, and lack of concentration, the survey stated.

“The prolonged closure of schools further exacerbated their situation as it resulted in a decline in nutrition levels among the children, online learning came with severe challenges, and the psychological well-being of the children was majorly affected,” the report said.

Aekta Chanda, senior education specialist, ChildFund India, said in a statement, “In India, educational vulnerability is overlapped with socio-economic disadvantage.”

“Reopening schools is a serious concern in the background of already lacking basic infrastructure of the public provision of school education in India, which is the only option available to cater to the educational needs of children from marginalised communities,” she added.

“It is important to understand the perceptions of various stakeholders before reopening schools to plan the process in an inclusive manner, because this group was worst impacted due to temporary closure of schools and the increased emphasis on online mode of education available during the pandemic”, she said.

The suggestions

The report suggested financial allocations both by the central and state governments to help children address the “pandemic-induced emotional setbacks”.

“There is a need for financial allocations, in form of a Covid-19 rehabilitation package to be made to the public education system, by the Union and state governments for provisions like social and emotional learning sessions to help children overcome the pandemic-induced emotional setbacks and special training/bridge classes for children who have not been able to follow during the online classes.”

A UNICEF report earlier this month found that the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the pandemic and the resultant lockdown in 2020 impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India.

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