More kids, parents want schools opened; say difficult to cope without support: Survey (Down to Earth)

As many as 64 per cent of the 1,725 children surveyed in 20 backward districts across 10 states expressed the need for support regarding extra classes to cover the learning gaps induced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Prolonged closure of schools could also lead to an increase in the drop-out rates of girls.

The survey — carried out in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal in November 2020 — was conducted by ChildFund, a non-profit working in child development, in collaboration with Council for Social Development.

At least 1,605 parents and 127 teachers were also surveyed to assess preparedness of the public education system and the need for an inclusive approach to reopen schools.

These states had witnessed the heaviest inflow of migrant labourers during the COVID-19 pandemic and their children faced immense challenges in re-enrolling in schools due to a lack of documents. Closure of schools led to a decline in nutrition levels among children and online learning came with several challenges.

The study found that a majority of the parents (84 per cent) and children (83 per cent) wanted the schools to reopen. According to teachers surveyed, a further delay in opening of schools will increase the dropout rates of girls to 47 per cent.

Among other findings of the report were:

  • More than half the parents witnessed increased negative behaviour and more than 60 per cent children said they experienced changes in their behaviour. These included an increase in anger and irritability as well as lack of concentration.
  • Almost 74 per cent children were sad, particularly because they were missing classroom interactions with teachers and friends. Nearly 7 per cent were anxious or afraid because of the learning gap caused by online teaching.
  • More than 50 per cent children were engaged in creative activities like artwork and singing to cope up with negative feelings.

The report suggested a need for financial allocations in the form of a COVID-19 rehabilitation package to be made to the public education system. It also recommended providing social and emotional learning sessions to help children overcome emotional setbacks induced by the pandemic.

It also suggested special training / bridge classes for children who had difficulties accessing online classes.

Among other suggestions for state and Union governments were:

  • Ensure Right to Education norms for the pupil-teacher ratio are met
  • Provide information to parents and community about government schemes and programmes so that they can avail them accordingly
  • Provide financial package to help government schools for the COVID-19-related additional infrastructural needs, such as the implementation of standard procedures (physical distancing, WASH facilities and health screening)

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