Explained: Will India face West Africa's situation in closure of schools amid coronavirus outbreak?
New Delhi, May 18: With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, schools and other educational institutions have remained closed in India. Through this, the closest comparison for the current pandemic could be with the closure of schools during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014.
Though the coronavirus pandemic and the Ebola epidemic are different, these two disasters become similar in how education system was hit in the respective outbreak regions.
Several Educationists are now looking at the experience that West Africa faced in 2014 for more insights into the consequences of government-mandated classroom shutdowns.
How students were pulled out from the schools
During the Ebola epidemic, schools in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia were closed to break the chains of transmission. It was said that children and young people can be vectors of transmission as the contact rates are high in schools. Nearly 50 lakh students in these countries were pulled out of classrooms. In Sierra Leone, schools remained closed for nine months, in Guinea and Liberia, the schools did not open for almost six months.
According to the 2015 UNDP report on the socio-economic impact of the epidemic, the students had lost about 1,848 hours of education, ranging from 33 weeks in Guinea to 39 weeks in Sierra Leone.
Several students did not return to schools after it reopend
After the epidemic came under control and school gates reopened, several students did not continue their education. A survery conducted by the World Bank had said that nearly 25 per cent of the students in Liberia and 13 per cent in Sierra Leone did not go back to school after reopening. The school dropouts were attributed mainly to economic reasons. In simple terms, the burden of shuting down schools and classrooms was borne by the children coming from the poor families.
There was a gender divide in closure of educational institutions
Though the students were severely affected by the closure of schools, study revealed that girl students did not return to the classrooms as several physical and sexual abuse and violence and an increase in early pregnancies became a reason. During the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone witnessed cases of teenage pregnancies.
With these situations in the front, the Indian government allowed online classes to be conducted to the students. However, not many students in India can afford the basic needs to have the required gadgets to get into the online classes as the number of unemployment are on the rise due to coronavirus. Also, the students from the lower income families and daily wage workers'families, presently, will find it difficult to go back to schools after it reopens due to lack of money.