WHILE it may sound encouraging that Haryana is trying to bring back to school over 29,000 children, aged 7 to 14 years, who dropped out due to various reasons, the state also needs to assure that the actual figure is not much higher and why it was unable to prevent the children from discontinuing their studies in the first place. The survey, conducted by the Haryana School Shiksha Pariyojana Parishad (HSSPP) between February 22 and March 15 this year, reveals that most of the children who dropped out were from economically weaker sections of society, whose parents suffered a loss of income or displacement due to the disruption caused by the pandemic. To make up for the loss of learning, special training centres have been set up in the state on the premises of government schools to bring these children back to the mainstream. The lopsidedness of educational advancement is reflected in the fact that while Nuh district has the maximum number of dropouts, Mahendragarh has none. Even Gurugram and Panchkula lag behind in preventing children from dropping out.
The pandemic saw educational institutions being closed for health reasons and the process of learning getting affected. The switch to the online medium of instruction ensured that there was no abrupt discontinuation, but it was not so in the case of many because of lack of necessary tools like Internet connectivity and smartphones, resulting in another form of inequality. Children getting affected is not just about the present but also the future, for no investment is more worthwhile than in terms of human resources. Online learning served its purpose in the exigency but ways have to be found to mitigate the impact of the loss of campus life that affects students at the psycho-social level. The disruption of studies also amounts to a negation of the right to education that demands free and compulsory schooling for children.
Like Haryana, other states also need to map the children deprived educationally. But while bringing back children to school, safety measures should not be compromised to prevent a recurrence of the disease.
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