Virus ef­fect on stu­dents a catas­tro­phe, says UN

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Htspotligh­t -

with par­ents, car­ers, teach­ers and young peo­ple is fun­da­men­tal.”

Ed­u­ca­tion­ist and for­mer Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) mem­ber Dr In­der Mo­han Ka­pahy said: “Covid-19 pan­demic has caused an un­prece­dented ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis in the whole world, par­tic­u­larly in the de­vel­op­ing na­tions. In In­dia alone, a min­i­mum of 30 mil­lion school stu­dents are ad­versely af­fected. In poorer coun­tries, schools pro­vide not only ed­u­ca­tion but also nu­tri­ents, food and life skills. A con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate is that dis­rup­tion in school ed­u­ca­tion may con­tinue for at least four months more.”

Ac­cord­ing to a global pro­jec­tion cov­er­ing 180 coun­tries by the UN ed­u­ca­tion agency UNESCO and part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions, some 23.8 mil­lion ad­di­tional chil­dren and youths from pre-pri­mary school to univer­sity level are at risk of drop­ping out or not hav­ing ac­cess to school next year due to the pan­demic’s eco­nomic im­pact.

“We are at a defin­ing mo­ment for the world’s chil­dren and young peo­ple,” Guter­res said in a video mes­sage and a 26-page pol­icy brief­ing. “The de­ci­sions that gov­ern­ments and part­ners take now will have last­ing im­pact on hun­dreds of mil­lions of young peo­ple, and on the de­vel­op­ment prospects of coun­tries for decades to come.”

Ac­cord­ing to the pol­icy brief­ing, “the un­par­al­leled ed­u­ca­tion dis­rup­tion” from the pan­demic is far from over and as many as 100 coun­tries have not yet an­nounced a date for schools to re­open.

Guter­res called for ac­tion in four key ar­eas, the first be­ing re­open­ing schools. “Once lo­cal trans­mis­sion of Covid-19 is un­der con­trol,” he said, “get­ting stu­dents back into schools and learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions as safely as pos­si­ble must be a top pri­or­ity.”

Guter­res said in­creas­ing fi­nanc­ing for ed­u­ca­tion must be given pri­or­ity. Be­fore the pan­demic, low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries faced an ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing gap of $1.5 tril­lion an­nu­ally, he said, and the gap in ed­u­ca­tion fi­nanc­ing glob­ally could in­crease by 30% be­cause of the pan­demic.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral said ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives must tar­get “those at great­est risk of be­ing left be­hind”, in­clud­ing young­sters in crises, mi­nori­ties, and the dis­placed and dis­abled. And these ini­tia­tives should ur­gently seek to bridge the dig­i­tal di­vide that has be­come even more ev­i­dent dur­ing the Covid-19 cri­sis, he said.

On a pos­i­tive note, Guter­res said the pan­demic is pro­vid­ing “a gen­er­a­tional op­por­tu­nity to reimag­ine ed­u­ca­tion” and leap for­ward to sys­tems that de­liver qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Ameeta Mulla Wat­tal, prin­ci­pal of Delhi’s Spring­dales School, said: “There is no doubt this is one of the great­est hu­man crises that has taken place. And its largest im­pact has been felt on chil­dren — reg­u­lar stu­dents, more so chil­dren in ru­ral ar­eas across the world be­cause they have ab­so­lutely no ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. So there is no doubt an en­tire as­pect of learn­ing that will be af­fected by the pan­demic be­cause there are these ages of learn­ing that will face a gap at dif­fer­ent lev­els be­cause of the pan­demic, whether it is the foun­da­tion, pri­mary, mid­dle level or an­other level.”

Ed­u­ca­tion­ist Meeta Sen­gupta said that the “con­ti­nu­ity of learn­ing” is the first step for bring­ing back stu­dents to class­rooms when­ever the schools re­open.

“We need to start work­ing as a com­mu­nity to cre­ate a mesh net­work of the in­ter­net to make it avail­able to the poor. There should be mea­sures to raise funds for dig­i­tal de­vices and in­ter­net con­nec­tion to en­able chil­dren from poor fam­i­lies to con­tinue learn­ing at their homes. The con­ti­nu­ity should not break be­cause once stu­dents step out of learn­ing; com­ing back is very dif­fi­cult. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween stu­dents and schools should be con­tin­ued,” she said.

Find­ings from a Na­tional Sta­tis­ti­cal Of­fice sur­vey on so­cial con­sump­tion on ed­u­ca­tion, con­ducted in 2017-18, show that In­dia’s gross en­rol­ment ra­tio was 99.2 be­tween pri­mary and mid­dle school ed­u­ca­tion level. It is the ra­tio of the num­ber of per­sons cur­rently en­rolled in a par­tic­u­lar level of ed­u­ca­tion to the num­ber of per­sons in the cor­re­spond­ing of­fi­cial age group. For ex­am­ple, the ra­tio of 99.2 in pri­mary to mid­dle school level means for every 100 per­sons in the age group of 6 to 13 years, there are 99.2 stu­dents en­rolled in Classes 1 to 8. To be sure, this does not mean nearly ev­ery­one in the age group of 6 to 13 years is en­rolled in school be­cause some of the stu­dents in Classes 1 to 8 would be stu­dents from other age groups, par­tic­u­larly above the age of 13, who en­rol at a age higher than the one rec­om­mended.

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