Among the other effects of the novel Coronavirus, India has encountered a worst-case scenario of a student dropout rate that has risen over the past two years. Because the whole country shut down, the educational model was changed to online teaching and learning, which students from rural areas do not seem to be able to afford, nonetheless are not familiar with.
To analyse this issue further, many government schools are situated in rural areas where, in some cases, electricity facilities are non-existent. Students from working-class backgrounds could not go back to school even in the post-pandemic.
The first and foremost reason is the lack of internet access and smartphones. As everything was being done online, many students who became poorer were thinking about survival through the pandemic. They dropped out of school to help their parents out. Believe it or not, they took some odd jobs to support their own family. Yet, the income was very low as the economic state went flat with a GDPA of 23%. The unemployment rate also increased in the pandemic. It leads to a chaotic situation of mass panic. It has affected school students too.
Even if some of the students are equipped with smartphones, they face connectivity issues altogether.
The tendency to drop out among 6 to 16-year-olds in rural India has been surveyed by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). It has released a report that indicates in 2020, the enrolment rate has decreased by 6% in schools across the nation. The tendency of students to drop out between 6 and 16 years in rural India has also been included in the report. The enrolment of students in government schools has increased more than 60% more than in private schools. Maybe this is the reason for financial issues in the family.
"The girls are dropping out mostly." They are forced to get married in their teens as a result of pressure from the family. "With school being completely shut down, the midday meal does not come to the scene to rescue them or make them come to school," a government school teacher adds. According to UNICEF, more than ten million girls are at risk of child marriage due to the pandemic.
Moreover, the mental turmoil for survival has pushed school-goers to sacrifice their academic learning. The struggle for marginalized children gets more intense to get access to education in the basic sense.
The unavailability of physical classes has led to such a result that shows children might drop out of the educational system. They tried hard to adjust to the home-learning and video lectures by the teachers. Therefore, it turns out to be challenging for most students to continue studying and work outside at the same time. Even some rural area teachers are unfamiliar with tech-driven teachings, emphasising the need for proper tools and infrastructure.
To prevent dropout rates, the government launched the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 intending to bring back dropout students in schools to reach the target of 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GRE) as far as possible.
To stop the extended rate of dropouts, states and non-states must work hand in hand to create opportunities for more advanced learning and teaching with the standard infrastructure, especially in non-urban areas, or children will lose interest in coming to school in the future. Besides, the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 gives assurance of quality education for vulnerable communities.
The school’s role is as crucial as the role of state and private organizations. They should keep a record of students who have been absent for a long time and could get help from the local authorities and communities to persuade parents to send their children to schools regularly and attend parent-teacher (PT) meetings. The community could organise small teaching classes for disadvantaged students with the help of trained teachers and scholars.
Another fact to remember in this is the mental and emotional growth of the kids. It must not be neglected. The schools or state government should contribute to this space to provide psychological benefits through counselors.
Secondly, the state government should start investing more money in public schools situated in urban and non-urban areas. They can survey by dividing into small groups to find the exact amount of funds that are necessary for the primary development during COVID-19 and post lockdown. It would show them how to lay out the plan and needs.
Instead of the state administration’s involvement, the NGOs must step forward in this prevention activity so that children get the best quality education.
On the other hand, the tendency to privatise all academic institutions might hamper students coming from low-income families. To eradicate a whole system would not serve the purpose of prevention. More importantly, the requirement of a collective effort from us would help to lower the number of dropouts. We, as a society, are able enough to bring change if we want it.
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