What good is a social welfare system if its children are unable to attend school and receive an education during their formative years? This subject is currently disturbing policymakers, NGOs, and other human welfare organizations since they suspect a major difficulty in ensuring excellent human resources in the future. A troubling trend of children dropping out of school is currently sowing the seeds for such a dreadful outcome.
The rising dropout rate, primarily among students in grades 6 to 10, is being attributed to their parents' worsening financial situation as a result of the pandemic's impact. The issue has been reported across the country.
During the lockdown, a variety of businesses and low-wage jobs came to a halt. However, in the post-unlock period, children from higher elementary and secondary schools, as well as families who work in the informal sector, pitch in to help their parents supplement their income.
Due to a lack of PDS quotas under the mid-day meal program, many pupils began working alongside their parents and even taking on odd jobs to help support the family financially.
While various NGOs and organizations conducted independent surveys and investigations, the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement's School Education Program discovered that 26% of students in India were working as daily wagers during the lockdown.
34,123 pupils were admitted to sixth through tenth grades in Koppal, a rural taluk in Karnataka, for the 2020-21 school year, however, 9,233 have yet to return to school. In other sections of the country, the situation is similar.
A student organization named Campus Front of India (CFI) has launched a state-wide campaign called 'zero dropouts,' aimed mostly at SSLC students. Its members went to schools and students' homes to find out how many kids had dropped out.
More than 100 SSLC students have dropped out, according to data provided by Block Education Officers. The causes for dropping out of school are financial and health concerns, migration, and lack of enthusiasm among parents and pupils.
Many students from remote areas are absent from school and are considered dropouts. Because schools were shuttered during the lockdown, they began working at construction sites, stores, farms, and odd jobs. They are paid around Rs 500 each day.
Teachers cannot compel them to come to school because attendance is not compulsory. Some kids have been absent from class for almost a month. Almost all schools in rural areas around the country are in the same predicament.
The Departments of Public Instruction and Panchayat Raj have launched a joint house-to-house census to identify pupils aged 18 and under who have dropped out of school. They've discovered that many students, particularly in rural areas, have dropped out of school owing to financial difficulties and migration.
The closing of schools has had a negative impact on the children's learning capacity, which is why they are hesitant to return to school. There is also the possibility of an increase in child labor. As many parents have lost their employment, the impact of household income has had an impact on children dropping out of school.
Disturbing findings regarding loss of learning during the epidemic were found in a thorough field study undertaken by Azim Premji University. It stated that the situation is likely to be worse for those who drop out of school and that they may never return to school.
The term "learning loss" refers to both the loss of normal curricular learning that children obtain in schools and students' "forgetting" abilities learned in earlier classes.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on India and the rest of the world. One such important effect is the loss of education compounded by the phenomena of academic regression.
Here are some recommendations to prevent further dropouts and ensure that every child, especially those from vulnerable groups, girls, tribal children, children from minority or migrating groups, etc., receives a quality education following India's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals:
1. State and non-state actors such as ministries of central and state governments, and organizations working for child welfare should collaborate to identify children from specific vulnerable groups, locate them, and ensure that they return to school through thorough monitoring.
2. Provide assistance to these children with exceptional needs such as financial aid, special academic support sessions, psychosocial counselling, and so on.
3. To assist children's holistic education, educate parents and teachers about the learning needs of children as well as social and emotional learning through customised modules.
4. Improve the public education system by:
Increasing the amount of money allocated to public education.
Identifying local school and child needs and allocating cash accordingly.
Allocating additional cash and human resources for frequent sanitization and sanitation in schools, based on local needs, to follow standard COVID-19 procedures such as physical distance, WASH facilities, health screening, and so on.
Providing health screening and medical services at the school and Panchayat levels.
Recruiting qualified teachers to conduct classes with sufficient physical separation.
Providing extra education and training for youngsters with learning disabilities.
Finally, ensure that teachers receive proper training to adjust to the 'new normal.'
Overall, it is our common responsibility as a society to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education. All stakeholders, including NGOs, educators, and civil society, must work together to support the government's implementation and ensure that any gaps in the sector are remedied via constructive dialogue and advocacy.