UNICEF fears learning loss to 7.5 M Bihar children due to COVID-19
PATNA—A study conducted by UNICEF says that some 7.5 million children in Bihar may suffer learning loss as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions in place to check spread of this deadly disease.
All schools in the state have been largely shut for the past 14 months since March when India enforced nation-wide lockdown last year to break chain of coronavirus.
The UNICEF’s calculation is based on the reports that only 36.5 per cent of children have access to internet while as little as 3.5 per cent of them computer facilities available at home.
The startling revelation was made by senior UNICEF officials during the online meeting with the education department on Sunday.
“All efforts should be made to ensure the most marginalized groups of the children could continue their study,” UNICEF (India) chief of Education Terry Durnnian said. Another UNICEF official made a strong plea for reopening of schools with complete adherence to safety protocols.
Bihar education secretary Sanjay Kumar said the state government was aware of such constraints and had urged the centre to provide digital devices for children.
“Yet there can be no better alternative to schools which provide a complete ecosystem for education,” Kumar said.
Experts say although schools conducted online classes to make up the loss of study during its closure period, it has served purposes only up to little extent owing to the fact that quite good percentage of children from poor families don’t own smart phones or other digital devices to connect to Online classes.
Even though they somehow got connected, many were unable to understand what was being taught online by their teachers, experts said.
The Bihar education department as an another alternative also conducted classes for schoolchildren through TV under a programme nicknamed ‘My TV, My School’ but the fact is that many families still don’t have TV sets at home.
This further affected the study of the children. A 2018 report of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) says that Bihar and Jharkhand have the lowest penetration of TV sets with less than 30 per cent households owing one.
A UNICEF report released in March this year said as many as 1.5 million schools remained shut during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus lockdown which badly affected the study of 247 million children enrolled in schools in India.