India must go all out to restore education

Back to school’ … the hum of pleasing noises around that phrase comes as perhaps the only welcome development amidst all the intimation of chaos around us.

Published: 24th August 2021 07:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th August 2021 07:05 AM   |  A+A-

Schools reopening

Illustration: Amit Bandre

Back to school’ … the hum of pleasing noises around that phrase comes as perhaps the only welcome development amidst all the intimation of chaos around us. Children have been one of the worst-hit segments of humanity in the pandemic: some were directly afflicted, all of them had to endure a life thrown astray in terms of formal education and social well-being. Of course, the dilemma is still not resolved: is it safe to reopen schools for physical classes? 

In India, the situation is more dire. The online ecosystem exacerbates the chasm between the haves and have-nots to phenomenal degrees. Children have been dropping off the schooling radar and hitting the labour market in worrying proportions since last year. Open government schools also means sustenance, access to midday meals—that means about 62% not going underfed or hungry. The fanfare witnessed on Monday in Karnataka around the partial reopening of Classes 9-12 underlined how badly this was missed. (Many private schools remained shut—either unconvinced that the time was right, or simply financially broken by the lockdown.) Had it not gone into state mourning for Kalyan Singh, Uttar Pradesh too would have opened schools on Monday.

Andhra Pradesh opened on August 16, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan will follow on September 1. Punjab, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Puducherry and a few others reopened in early August. Delhi is still dithering. Some have got their teaching staff fully vaccinated, others are en route there. It’s still a mix of online and offline classes, with social distance protocols in place. Hopefully another wave of the Delta variant will not bring more disruption—experts have advocated a nimble, flexible model that responds to neighbourhood trends. The education budget is too puny for an overhaul or expansion of infrastructure, whereby all could be safely accommodated. But India must go all out to restore education. Schooling here is an equaliser—a vital investment that fuels economic growth and social regeneration.


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