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The lockdown challenge and how the poor need to cope with education


New Delhi, May 08: One of the sectors that has been worst hit by the nation-wide lockdown is the education sector. Exams have been postponed and in many cases results have been delayed.

While in the cities, many managements have ensured that learning continues online, the big challenge is for the poorest of poor and in the rural areas.

The lockdown challenge and how the poor need to cope with education

Dr Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist who is the pro-vice chancellor of the Jain University and Director of its Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Education tells OneIndia that it is now time for the government to spruce up connectivity in the rural areas so that online education can be imparted.

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COVID-19 has created both challenges and opportunities. The question is how do those people who are not economically well off access the resources and what happens to education. Education is about continuity and today it is not there due to the lockdown.

The lockdown is a necessity and not a choice and none of us wanted it. Due to this lockdown many of us were forced to re-invent ourselves.

Let me frank, we had made no effort to bring in online classes, but today it is a reality. A large part of India is not on social media, but a very high percentage is connected on the mobile.

Most of the platforms used by institutions do not need sophisticated technology. In the rural sector, the schools must encourage conducting classes using a simple mobile. I have dealt with several government schools and I am aware that it can be accessed. However the block remains in the mind and not in technology, Dr Shastri says.

I do concede that there are areas with poor connectivity. However, this is not an insurmountable challenge. The government has to expand the bandwidth in rural areas.

We need to prepare for both the face to face as well online form of education. My own experience has shown me that those who are silent in the normal class are more active online. Some these challenges are like a mask and I go back to my point that what is needed is an attitude change.

The impact of Covid-19 lockdown on children

Over time, we will be forced to go in for blended learning that is face to face and online classes. In the rural sector and among the poor the problem with regard to education is a temporary challenge. By July we will be back.

However, in the rural areas, the government must ensure that the bandwidth is expanded. Once the poor students come back to the classes, there has to be fast learning. In the lower classes, teachers have to link up with the parents to ensure that education is continued. In the case of uneducated parents, children should be encouraged into a system of peer learning.

In my experience, the government schools have taken to online classes and it has succeeded. Over a period of time, we must mentally shift to the new system and the government has to improve connectivity.

However at this moment, the poor have more serious challenges to deal with. They are now looking for survival and again for me, it depends on the level of education.

Karnataka's Deputy Chief Minister, Dr C N Ashwath Narayan says that on the digital front, Karnataka is very strong. This has been our strength and it has now come to use.

Probably a small percentage is affected, but we will cope with that. We will encourage self learning and how I see it is that academics will be on track in another two months.

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