New report shows girls are more likely to bear the brunt of the pandemic in terms of the hit to education
While the central government has permitted phased reopening of educational institutions as per the local situation of COVID-19, majority teaching-learning activities continue to be online.
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant unprecedented disruption of the education sector in India. While there have been gains in terms of penetration of digital delivery of education, its reach certainly isn’t as wide as desired, contributing to perhaps crucial losses to a generation of learners from poor households.
Several reports on the status of education during the pandemic have already pointed at the adverse effect on students’ learning outcome, especially for those studying in government schools and lacking access to online learning because of infrastructure/digital literacy constraints. A new report published by the Right To Education Forum highlights another aspect of the digital divide—girls are bearing the brunt of this. The study highlights that while 78% of students thought (equal proportion of boys and girls) that their life was better before the pandemic, girls had to bear a much larger burden; 70% of the girls have had to become involved in household chores, as compared to 38% of boys. While boys spent more time on leisure activities, they also spent more time on education.
As compared to girls being able to spend less than half of their time on educational pursuits, boys have been able to dedicate close to 60% of their time to this. There was large inequity in terms of access to technology as well; as compared to 37% of boys, only 26% of girls could access mobile phones.
As it becomes clear that reopening schools will be a difficult ask till the time an effective vaccine has reached a large chunk of the population, there is a need for the government to focus its efforts on removing the key obstacles for those most vulnerable to losing out on the education front. For one, states and the Centre need to get ASHA and Anganwadi workers to deliver learning material to households. There is also a need to make education through TV more interactive. In Assam, despite a TV penetration of 46%, only 2% were able to access education content. The government also needs to ensure that mid-day meal vouchers or cash in lieu of this reach the beneficiary children. If such steps are not taken, schools could witness massive dropouts.