Crisis in Rural Education amidst the Pandemic
The pandemic has forced schools to remain shut since March 2020. Consequently, e-learning is on the rise. However, rural and underprivileged students with limited opportunities to avail online learning (along with the restrictive nature of lockdowns) have suffered learning loss, malnutrition, domestic abuse, dropping out of schools, resorted to child labour and early marriage.
The problems start with poor network connectivity. It has forced students to take classes outside their homes under the hot sun or pouring rain or after walking to a neighbouring village where the connectivity is better. Furthermore, younger students need to use a device that is owned and operated by a parent. In some cases, the entire family shares a single smartphone, which is further shared amongst siblings for their online classes.
Most households do not have a broadband connection leaving them with just limited mobile data. As online education uses video along with audio, data consumption is high. Students drop out of classes when they exhaust their data limit. This, coupled with intermittent power cuts and outages, is another cause for concern. Students are forced to miss classes or disconnect in the middle of one if they run out of battery in their phones.
According to a report from the Scroll.in, there have been high rates of dropping out, especially for children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, due to the fact that the parents of these children have lost their employment during the lockdowns. This forces the children to contribute towards the sustenance of the family and leaves no time for education.
While these students’ urban counterparts have the luxury of using self-learning apps and accessing study material from a wide variety of paid and unpaid sources on the internet, the lack of access to school infrastructure, including libraries and labs, has left them ill-prepared to face assessments and examinations.
When the system fails, creativity and humanity thrive. Media reports of students scaling the trunk of trees to climb on top of trees or gathering at a bus stand in search of better connectivity have been met with praise and concern. In Rajasthan’s Barmer, teachers are going the extra mile to help students by travelling on camels to the homes of students located in desert areas or who have limited access to mobile networks.
The government certainly needs to step in with decisive action to prevent this crisis from worsening. Online learning might well be the future of education, but rural India is not equipped to handle this pandemic-induced transition. If anything, the last two years have been a wake-up call for the entire education sector that has struggled to keep up with the realities of a rapid shift in the ways of teaching-learning.
It is time to stop turning a blind eye towards the underprivileged. That is the reason why we, at Next Education, believe that education is not just a business, but a cause. We leave no stone unturned when it comes to making education accessible to all. We have successfully collaborated with top companies in India like Capgemini, Samsung, ONGC, Swades Foundation and Plan India to conduct far-reaching campaigns for literary enhancement, skill development and empowerment, establishing digital infrastructure in remote areas, and emancipating underprivileged communities. Learn more about us and our community work here.