Rural education in India during and post CORONA/COVID-19

Today, we all are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, it has costed us human lives, caused economic loss, loss of our freedom, motivation and much more. While every sector/industry is facing losses and challenges due to COVID-19, I am going to discuss about challenges and loss in educational sector especially rural education in this blog. And also open up a dialogue on how to address this challenges.

Currently, due to COVID-19, exams are postponed, schools, colleges, universities are closed. In the beginning they were closed without further notice but it was assumed it will be for short period of time. However, looking at the bleak future, where we do not know when will we get cure or vaccine, everybody has started finding solutions in terms continuing classes via digital medium i.e webinars/video conferencing etc.

One key factor to understand here is the above digital medium is being used by private,international and urban education institutes. But the rural schools, specifically govt rural schools are lagging way behind.

We already know rural govt schools lag behind in infrastructure e.g. but not limited to lack of digital infrastructure (computers, projectors etc)  poor teacher student ratio, low attendance, parents who are unaware of importance of education and lack of their efforts to help their children get educated, financially backward families, non availability of continuous electricity and so on. All this factors make it a teacher dependent education system in rural govt schools, now to replace that with digital platform due to COVID-19 is challenging. On top of it, even if we decide to implement digital/online learning , there is lack of computers, internet, personal mobiles/ devices to connect video calling, webinars etc.

Rural govt schools are currently closed due to summer holidays, ideally they should re open in June first week as per every years process. But this year due to COVID-19, there is no clarity. The situation may result in extension of lock down or even if not, we have still lost a lot of valuable time and this schools may have lost time to finish exams, curriculum, and covering that will take efforts and time.

To prepare for smooth transition of learning for rural children which got disturbed due to COVID-19, we need to push ourselves and think of solutions of making digital learning available to rural children. We have been doing just that in 50 rural schools already. However we realize we were able to provide only digital projector and few laptops. But if situation like COVID-19 persists or in future we have more such situations, we might need to provide individual devices to rural children . As this children belong to financially week families, they do not own personal devices neither have internet.

Thinksharp Foundation is going to extend their thoughts and welcomes views and support on tackling this issue under project StudyMall, StudyMall currently provides library and digital learning facilities. But we are working on extending this to have laptops, individual personal devices etc for uninterrupted learning, for serving rural population.

We want to extend our work to create a financially viable and user friendly option to provide equal digital learning tools for rural children.

We welcome educationists, parent, children, policymakers, fellow NGOs to contribute to pool of ideas and frame solutions to solve this issue . Together lets help rural govt schools and rural children learn uninterrupted during and post COVID-19 period.

Thanks and keep your Human side up that will keep you smiling….

Written by -Dr.Shraddha M Bhange

Volunteer and Writer for Thinksharp Foundation.

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