Lurking gap as schools reopen: 77% children had no access to teachers during pandemic

A report by Odisha NGO “Bridging the Gap: Reimagining School Education in a Post-Covid Scenario” says that 63.3% children couldn't get required support from their family members during the pandemic

Lurking gap as schools reopen: 77% children had no access to teachers during pandemic
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Rajiv Shah

An Odisha NGO report “Bridging the Gap: Reimagining School Education in a Post-Covid Scenario” has said that nearly two-thirds of children (63.3 %) could not get required support from their family members to deal with their emotional, social and learning support during the pandemic, when the schools were closed. This happened even as 91.09% of the children reported they did not have access to smartphone, making their learning “difficult and stressful.”


Carried out by the Atmashakti Trust with the help of the Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and the Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha, released a week ago, the survey was undertaken in 84 blocks of 17 rural districts which are largely represented by tribal, Dalits, and other marginalized communities.

Based on a survey of 10,258 children studying in classes 1 to 8, the report said, 94.6% from them came from government-run schools. It also surveyed 4,357 parents, 27% of whom have not attended any school, 33% of aren’t able to read Odia alphabets, 30.1% of parents aren’t able to read Odia words and sentences and 42% parents aren’t able to write in Odia even though Odia is the mother tongue.

According to the report, nearly 18% of the children, who attended online classes, were quite discontented, and stated that it proved to be pretty challenging. Thus, “While 12.8% of children have reported that they could not interact or ask questions with teachers for fear of being bullied by their teachers, 14.7% of them felt embarrassed to ask a question as the concept of online classes was something that none of them was prepared for.”


The report said, “Children, despite being less affected by the coronavirus itself, are bearing a disproportionate burden of the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic”, which has not just affected “their physical health but also their mental wellbeing.” In fact, “The prolonged school closure and movement restriction caused fear, anxiety, stress, and social bearings among children, parents, teachers and other stakeholders.”

Released even as offline schooling has begun across India, the report said, 76.7% of children said there was “no connection between them and their teachers during the prolonged school closure period”, while “61.5% of children reported that they were fearful about their learning loss when they heard about the school closure news.”


Suggesting the type of challenges the children’s education would face that that offline teaching has begun, the report said, “74.6% of children reported that they experienced mental and physical abuse during the pandemic. Also, 45.5% of children said that they were engaged in household work to support their families.”


The report, which also took a sample of 1,107 school management committee (SMC) members, mostly farmers and daily wage labourers, said that 9.7% of the members did not attend a SMC single meeting, 15.7% said that they didn’t have any information about any meeting, 34.9% said they were not even aware that monitoring of school development works came under their purview, while 65.5% said if they will get a remuneration of Rs 210 – equal to one day wage under MGNREGA – they would participate “without fail.”

As for the teachers, whose sample size was 695, the report said, they “suffered a lot due to the huge gap in direct learning.” Thus, 84% of teachers faced challenges in delivering education digitally, 50% teachers faced challenges related to signal and data expenses, and less than 20% of teachers received orientation on delivering online classes. In fact, teachers faced “four categories of barriers” during online teaching and assessments.

Further, 31.2% of the teachers were not able to access the Internet connectivity, 5.4% didn’t have smartphones with them and most notably 26.4% of teachers were not comfortable to operate smartphones, 42.7% and said they did not get any training related to conducting online classes for the students.”

The survey also showed that 75.01% of teachers were engaged with multifarious assignments pre and during Covid-19, including 56% who were engaged in Census Survey works, 39.6% who were engaged in Covid response work, and 34.7% engaged in other works apart from their scheduled job responsibilities.”

The report commented, “Under home environment settings, a lack of basic facilities, external distraction and family interruption during teaching and conducting assessments were major issues.” Then there were “institutional support barriers such as budget for purchasing advanced technologies, lack of training, lack of technical support and lack of clarity and direction.”

Further, “Teachers also reported limited awareness of online teaching platforms and security concerns. Teachers’ personal problems including a lack of technical knowledge, negative attitude, course integration with technology and a lack of motivation are identified as the fourth category to hamper their engagement in online teaching and assessments.”

(This was first published in Counterview)

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