The Challenges of bringing Children back to School is immense, with still uncertainties on how and when the Education Process will be put back on track, the Online Classes is exposing the shocking Digital Discrimination.
The Digital Discrimination as we see it are challenges of Affordability & Access, Efficacy, Holistic Learning, Social Divide.
Affordability & Access
As Children form affluent background are taking Online Classes a large number of Children from less privileged background who go to Government, Aided or low-cost Private School are left in a lurch. Laptops or Smartphones with connectivity remains an illusion to less privileged Children and also to Teachers in many cases. Pandemic has not only disconnected a large percentage of the Children form Schools but form Learning & Education System itself. Added to the Affordability non availability of Learning Tools, Content, Bandwidth, Network etc. presents an Access challenge too.
Online Classes is new to Teachers, Students and Parents, most of the Learning Tools, Content and Teaching Methodology is based on School atmosphere, and there is very limited scope to replicate or replace that method. Also, School Education is an interaction only between Children and Teachers, but with Online Classes Parents are getting involved which is not only undesirable but also influences the Student-Teacher relationship.
As most Teachers are already complaining about Parents sitting along with Children or interfering during Online Classes, and the question on the Efficacy of Online Classes still remains unanswered. There are several studies that has shown harmful impact of digital addiction on Children, now with Lockdown and Online Classes it’s a forced digital addiction that will have serious repercussions on Behavior and Health of Children.
Offline Learning included Physical Interaction, Sports, Games, Extra Curricular Activities and Social Interaction between Teachers and Children and among Children that is now nonexistent in Online Classes. Social Interaction and Sports are very important for overall development of a Child and fear is that Online Classes many lead to several Physiological problems, Behavioral issues, Isolation among Children. Since Learning Tools and Teaching Methodologies currently are not designed for Online Classes, reports indicate that 45-50% of Children are unable to cope with the change thereby reducing the phase of their Learning.
Pandemic has caused havoc for venerable and less Privileged Children, they are deprived of not only Education but also deprived of Mid-day Meals, Healthcare, Nutrition supplements, Government Benefits and Support System. These Children are facing dislocation as Parents move back to hometowns, increase in Poverty, increase in Child Labour is now a reality.
In a study 1 out of 10 Children said they would not be returning to School or do not know whether they would return to School once Schools reopen, a significant number of Children reported having no contact with Teachers since the closure of Schools. Three out of every four Children reported an increase in negative feelings since the outbreak of the Pandemic.
The story is not pleasant in households with internet access as many parents lack digital literacy, vulnerable children have experienced severe Stress about the impending uncertainties due to the ongoing Pandemic. With over 91% migrant households having reported loss of income and 60% of households reporting lack of money to buy food, Children remain the most venerable with uncertain future.
Lack of access to Education, apathy or lack of awareness of Parents, large drop-outs may lead to a huge increase in Child Labour. It is unlikely that these Children would return to Schools unless there is relentless effort to Mainstream them. Also, there is no shying away from the fact that illiteracy and poverty is linked to caste in India; Pandemic may leave behind several deprived communities creating a huge Social Imbalance & Injustice and push them back into dark ages.
Trustee, Kaagaz Foundation