A survey conducted by Oxfam India across five Indian states revealed that over 80% of students enrolled in government schools did not receive any form of education since the Covid-19 lockdown period. It was also revealed that only 20% percent teachers of government schools were trained to deliver online classes over the internet.

Titled ‘Status Report- Government and Private Schools during Covid-19’, the study was based on responses of 1,158 parents across private and government schools in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. It also incorporates the response of over 488 government school teachers based on interviews conducted between May to June 2020.

According to the study, every eight out of ten parents reported that no education was provided to their children enrolled in government schools during the lockdown period. Shockingly, in Bihar, almost 100 percent children did not receive any education during the same period.

Moreover, despite the Supreme Court order asking states to ensure the supply of midday meals to students of shut schools, only 65 percent students in all five states received meals, with over 92 percent children in UP saying that they were deprived of the same.

Additionally, over 75 percent parents of children enrolled in government schools said that the absence of internet connectivity, inability to afford data connections and slow internet speed has created constraints in the kid’s online learning. In Jharkhand, over 40 percent parents said that they did not have the right device to access online education for their children.

Out of the 20 percent government school students who received education during the lockdown period, around 75 percent remained dependent on WhatsApp, followed by about 38 percent who remained dependent on telephone calls with teachers for continuing their education.

The survey further points out that two out of every five government school teachers did not have the device required to deliver online education to their students, with the percentage of such teachers being as high as 80 percent in Uttar Pradesh and 67 percent in Jharkhand.

Shockingly, the survey also revealed that around 80 percent teachers in these five states had received no orientation training for conduction online classes, with Bihar leading the chart where only 5 percent teachers received formal training for delivering online classes to their students over the internet.

Around 80 percent children in government schools across these five states have not received textbooks for the current academic year, which means eight out of ten students have been left to study without any reading material.

As the pandemic situation has made it very difficult for the lesser privileged section of the society in terms of money, the parents of students enrolled in government schools complained about the various hindrances their children faced in accessing digital education. On the other hand, for those who send their children to private schools, the matter of school fee remains a major source of economic stress.

According to the survey, around 39 percent parents in Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had to pay hiked fees for the upcoming academic year. In Uttar Pradesh where the state government has asked schools not to hike the fees, around 50 percent parents reported having paid hiked fees.

In Orissa, which had issued no clear instruction on school fees, around 50 percent parents had to pay even for uniforms, despite massive resistance. In private schools too, 80 percent parents said that they faced challenges in providing resources to access online education to their children, with 23 percent of parents with children enrolled in government schools and 18 percent parents with children enrolled in private schools saying that they didn’t have any proper device and internet connection.

The survey was summarized with a few recommendations to the state governments, such as- improved enforcement of state orders around fee hikes; ensuring home delivery of textbooks to all children in government schools; inclusive distribution of printed material for daily exercise; facilitating sanitized, disinfected and safe restart of physical classes; ensuring safe home delivery of cooked meals and ration under the midday meal scheme; mapping out at-risk and vulnerable children and connect to them to relevant social protection schemes; providing proper PPE kits and hazard pay to teachers doing non-teaching jobs; and others.

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