Covid impact on education

Threat to gender equality a worrying trend

Covid impact on education

Photo for representation only. iStock

The UNESCO study pointing out the effects of prolonged closure of educational institutions on learning outcomes and gender equality also underlines the need for taking corrective measures. The report says that disruption of education due to Covid-19 affected young men and women in different ways, not just in India, but also in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Not only was access to education made difficult, the shutdown also had social and economic ramifications. The switchover to remote learning meant incurring additional costs for acquiring a smartphone and other gadgets. The gendered digital-divide was more pronounced in Pakistan where more boys than girls reported owning mobile phones and access to smartphones for girls was restricted for fear of misuse and they had to rely on family members to meet their needs.

The prolonged closure of schools and colleges also meant having to keep abreast of learning goals in the face of uncertainty. Confinement also meant more responsibility with household chores increasing for girls and boys undertaking more income-generating activities which tended to affect learning. It also meant being away from support networks physically and the need to stay connected through digital platforms. Online learning regularly over a prolonged period also had possible fallouts on health. The closure of educational institutions revolved around the whole well-being of young adults as they had to search for alternative ways to pursue education and nurture their creativity while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. With Covid-19 affecting lives and livelihoods profoundly, the psycho-social strain acted as an impediment to learning.

As educational institutions gradually reopen, efforts should be made to bring back normalcy to the classrooms, with a distinct focus on reducing gender disparity. Encouragement needs to be given for girls to be able to pursue education and choose a vocation of their choice, while also raising awareness among them to prevent possibilities of abuse in the form of early marriage and domestic violence. They should be imparted skill-based knowledge for economic and social empowerment that will guarantee them the individuality to confront social mores and lead life on their own terms.

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