Experts are foretelling that a substantial number of children might not be able to come back to schools even after the pandemic is over and the schools resume. They are similarly worried about the future of hard-won gains of human capital that developed through education, which has been sensed through looking at the present-day veracity that education is in inevitable jeopardy.
The World Bank also appraised that the current state of education might put at risk the goal of halving the learning poverty by 2030. According to the World Bank, at present 53 percent children of low- and middle-income countries are living in learning poverty, which might get an increase if rapid and coordinated actions are not taken to help the children carry on their education.
In Bangladesh, many adverse factors are obstructing the progressions of education at this moment. Educational institutions are closed since March 17, 2020. At this moment the students have no other choices but staying home and passing their time on their fashion or to some extent following the guidance of their guardians. Quite a few studies have been conducted to learn about their state of affairs during the closure of schools.
BRAC's study conducted in May 2020 reveals that 16 percent students studying in primary and secondary schools (31 million students study at these stages as official data suggest) are panicked with the coronavirus pandemic and 3 percent students have been the victim of any form of child abuse.
The study further suggests that 14 percent of students are passing their days without studying at home. The study likewise sheds light on the whys and wherefores behind the reluctance to continuing study at home. The main reasons include getting no direction from schools, food deficiency in families, getting no assistance from family members in study, poor mental conditions, etc.
The cases of being panicked and abuse have been reported the most by children with disabilities. Again, getting no direction from schools and getting no assistance from family members have been mentioned the most by the students living in rural areas and those studying in madrasas. The madrasa students and those living in urban areas reported food deficiency in their families alongside poor mental conditions.
The same study also reveals a real divide between the students who are blessed with the access to technological provisions (e.g. television, internet, electricity, cable connection, smartphone etc.) and those who are deprived of these facilities.
Around 56 percent of students reported that they do not take part in the classes aired through Sangsad Television or online mediums. The state of non-participation in such substitute arrangements is more evident among the students of ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, madrasas and those living in rural areas. The less participation of these categories of students exposes a clear connotation that the classes aired through these alternative mediums are not inclusive in nature, predominantly for the students from indigenous communities, children with disabilities and most notably for those who are deprived of technological provisions.
Technological provisions appear to be the foremost substitute for facilitating the students to carry on their education at home through virtual classrooms when conventional classroom methods are not feasible to deliver education. However, the economic shocks brought by Covid-19 pandemic have squeezed many families' affordability to use technological benefits. As a result, many children are getting deprived of substitute educational measures and consequently, they are in the offing to be run-down of education in the long run.
Deprivation of substitute educational measures might be the reality for a big number of children for several reasons. The most crucial one is that many families have been dislocated during the ongoing pandemic as their earning members have fallen victim of job cut or loss of income opportunities or reduction of income. Although no research or assessments are available to confirm an exact figure about the dislocated families, it can be pondered through some media news, the direction of internal migration has got an opposite move during this situation. The internal migration route has turned into urban to the rural direction. Thus many children who once studied in the schools of cities, have migrated to rural areas with their families and thus have been put into the new environment, with the likelihood of getting into a grave disruption of education.
The economic shocks induced by Covid-19 have been aggravated further, particularly in some areas of Bangladesh where the super cyclone Amphan smashed lives and resources of people in late May in 18 districts of coastal belt, alongside the areas where the current flood situation has marooned millions of people's lives and livelihoods in more than 20 districts. Terming the Covid-19 situation as 'new normal' in these specific areas might sound harsh as multiple burdens of vulnerabilities have been added to their lives. These burdens might pull their legs into the extreme poverty trap and leave their children into learning poverty and in consequence, a disparity situation might persist in society.
The natural disasters will be winding-up soon. The 'new normal' will also turn into a real normal situation. However, the scars created by them are likely to be enduring unless we take some strategic measures. Financing in children and more precisely in their education by removing technological barriers for every single student might be a solid solution to the unintended future disparity and injustice.
Abu Said Md. Juel Miah, A development researcher currently working in BRAC as Research Coordinator [email: [email protected]]