Home >News >India >Every house a school, every parent a teacher as Covid-19 impacts education of 300mn students

New Delhi: Thirty-six year old Tulika Haldher in Mumbai is facing two crisis at home: her 10-yr old daughter has very little to do post the closure of schools due to corona outbreak, and her family is taking too much time of her work-life.

Stocked with dozen-odd books including a Harry Potter series and a few animation films, Haldher thought her daughter Devanshi will sail-through the lockdown in Maharashtra and learn at home. But it’s the not the situation within the first week of closure in the state.

“The routine has gone haywire, the playtime is zero and there is no separation between home time and school time. You are constantly engaged with her along with office work and household work in the absence of a support system," said Halder who works for an US based technology service company. “Nuclear families don’t have the habit of spending 24-hours with parents. The child is out for school and hobby classes for eight to 10 hours a day and the husband-wife are in separate jobs. In our kind of families, children are not used to spending days at home without schools and friends. It’s a crisis for all," she said.

As schools and colleges are shut across India, every house is a school and every parent is a teacher. The playtime and me time gets merged with school time and there is no boundary between bed room and class room for millions of children in the country.

Kalpesh Banker, an entrepreneur in Delhi agrees. “Uncertain times create more problems for students. We elders know how to overcome it – but children without school are completely off routine. While there is a lot of talk about online classes, it is limited to a small number of schools and colleges."

“They cannot go out, they don’t know what to study and get bored. Children are reading at 9.30 in the evening, getting up late, watching films – there is hardly any control over a structured learning environment t at home. First few days will pass but it will have a huge impact on their overall learning. As such India’s learning crisis is huge and this will have a larger impact on the overall education outcome," Banker said over phone.

India has nearly 300 million kids in 1.4 million schools and 51,000 colleges. While almost 70% the schools are run by government bodies , it’s the opposite in the higher education space.

He said his relatives back in Gujarat are facing the same situation and there is a common understanding that while a nationwide lockdown is good for all in limiting the spread of the corona virus, it will have its impact not just on businesses and common people but also on education.

“Some schools are doing few classes over video apps but it’s not available to all. The rural schools and the parents are devoid of facilities as much as the schools," Banker said who runs an education consulting firm. “Children of the lowest rung of the society caught up with a livelihood challenge now face a stark vacuum even as government’s advisories ask schools to go online and consider homework as class work to reduce disruption," he added.

For 33 year old Purnima Devi, the task to keep her two children entertained during the lockdown continues. Devi, who works as a cook in Saket, is also home now due to the ongoing lockdown. Her two children who go to a government school in neighbouring Pushp Vihar do not have much to do during this time off.

“School has been closed for over a week now. The new session was supposed to start next month but with the lockdown, they are now home and don't have their new books. It is difficult to form a routine in such a situation. My daughter is supposed to start class seven where she can revise what she has already learnt but my son is in class three, it is very difficult to make him study from home," she said.

She adds she could have taught her children had she studied enough. The Delhi government is looking at ways in which course can be designed so students do not suffer. For the upcoming year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led Delhi government has allocated a sum of 100 crore to install digital classrooms in government schools. However, with the ongoing lockdown these plans are likely to be pushed. As of 2018, there were 1019 Delhi Government schools which enroll 14.81 lakh students. There are also 1719 un-aided schools and 208 aided schools which have 16.21 lakh and 1.55 lakh students respectively in the national capital.

“Online classes are a necessity to reduce disruption for senior school and college students, but the question is our educational institutions have the capacity to adopt it and teachers the bandwidth to teach over video apps," asked Vikas Pandey another parent in Delhi.

However, some see positives in a long break. “Corona virus has altered life for us all including our school system and children. But it’s time to llok at the positives. Yes, my bed room is my kids’ classroom but when is the last time we as professionals got time to spend enough hours with children. We just finished watching ‘Ratatouille’, an animation film and kids are super happy," said Sumit Seth, a parent in Ghaziabad even as his 11-yr old daughter Tisya breaks the conversion to ask “when is the school re-opening dad". And Seth does not have an answer for her.

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