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Coronavirus impact deepens education divide in India, UN agency says

By on October 6, 2021 0

Students and teachers prepare to decorate a school after it reopens after more than a year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Mumbai, India on October 4, 2021. REUTERS / Francis Mascarenhas / File Photo

NEW DELHI, October 6 (Reuters) – School closures in India and its children’s lack of smartphones and internet facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic have deepened the education divide, the cultural agency said United Nations, pointing out the risks to the future of young people.

About 248 million students have been affected by school closures since March last year, UNESCO said in a report, though many states in India have started easing restrictions as infections plummeted and that vaccinations were increasing over the past two months.

Almost 70% of students did not have smartphones or other devices to access online courses, while a majority struggled with poor internet facilities, if any, especially in rural areas, a- he added.

“There is an urgent need to plan for the return of students and their teachers to school,” the agency said in its report on education in India released on Tuesday.

Almost 40% of parents could not afford the costs of the internet, affecting learning and thus widening the educational gap between different parts of society, he said in the report, based on government data.

Widespread economic distress and job losses as people fled their homes to rural villages have plunged families into poverty, exacerbating the distress of children from ailments such as malnutrition and early marriages of girls. , the agency said.

The private schools most affected have been the private schools which receive no government subsidy, but where many poor families aspiring to a better education send their children, as parents found themselves unable to pay school fees after the reduction. of economic activity.

The Indian economy contracted by 7.3% per year in the fiscal year that ended in March 2021, in the worst recession since independence from the British colonial ruler in 1947.

Salary cuts or job losses have been suffered by teachers in private schools employing nearly 30% of India’s total of 9.7 million students, as many students have been withdrawn or transferred to subsidized schools by the government.

UNESCO called on India to recognize teachers as “front line workers” in the fight against the pandemic and to improve their working conditions in order to ensure better results in education.

“The quality of education is the main challenge for the next decade,” he said.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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