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ChildFund Report: 64% children feel they won’t be able to cope with curriculum after reopening of schools

Nonprofit organisation ChildFund has released an assessment report in collaboration with Council for Social Development. Titled, ‘Perception, Fears and Readiness for Reopening of Schools’, the purpose of the report is to understand the preparedness of the public education system vis-a-vis the perceptions and expectations of the important stakeholders with the aim to bring the voices from the field to inform the policy decisions in favor of the children on the margins. The report emphasizes on why and how an inclusive approach is needed for the reopening of schools with special focus on ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ – a concept wherein children become self-aware, develop self-control, and interpersonal skills vital for school, work, and life success.
The survey was carried out in 20 backward districts in 10 states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal in November 2020. The sample size was 1,725 children, 1,605 parents, and 127 teachers. These states had witnessed the heaviest inflow of migrant laborers and their children faced immense challenges in re-enrolling in schools due to a lack of documents. The prolonged closure of schools further exacerbated their situation as it resulted in a decline in nutrition levels among the children, online learning came with severe challenges, and the psychological well-being of the children was majorly affected.
These are also the states where ChildFund’s Inter-Generational Coping and Learning (IGCL) intervention was implemented. It is an intervention that helped children with home-based learning and supported children and families to cope with the heightened social and emotional situations during the difficult times.

Key findings of the report

– Majority of the parents (84%) and children (83%) want the schools to reopen.
– Panchayati Raj members mentioned that children of migrant parents were facing challenges in getting enrolled due to lack of documents. More than 40% parents clearly expressed the expectation of enrolling children without creating hassles for documents.
– More than 50% parents witnessed increased negative behaviour and more than 60% children themselves also expressed experiencing these changes in their behaviour. These included an increase in anger and irritability, and lack of concentration.
– Almost 74% children were sad, particularly because they were missing classroom interactions with teachers and friends. Nearly 7% were anxious or afraid, majorly because of the learning gap caused by online teaching.
– 64% children expressed the need for support regarding extra classes to cover the learning gaps and removal of the burden of exam for the year 2021.
– Teachers state that a further delay in opening of schools will increase the dropout rates of girls (47%), child labour (52%), and widen the learning gap (57%).
Where ChildFund’s IGCL programme was implemented with the aspect of Social and Emotional Learning, it was found to play a major role in providing social-emotional support. In these areas more than 75% children spent quality time with the family, and more than 50% children were engaged in creative activities like artwork and singing to cope up with negative feelings.

Key Recommendations

There is a need for financial allocations, in form of a COVID-19 rehabilitation package to be made to the public education system, by the Union and state governments for provisions like social and emotional learning sessions to help children overcome the pandemic induced emotional setbacks and special training/ bridge classes for children who have not been able to follow during the online classes.
– Making sure that the RTE norms for the pupil-teacher ratio are met, especially considering the increased load on the public education system resulting from swelled up enrolment due to economic reasons and reverse migration.
– Providing information to the parents and community about government schemes and programmes so that they can avail them accordingly.
– Partnership of the government with non-government organizations (NGOs) to bring back all children to school; tracking of children so that they are all back to school.
– Provisions for a financial package to help government schools for the COVID-19 related additional infrastructural needs, such as the implementation of standard procedures (physical distancing, WASH facilities and health screening) and appointing additional resources ensure regular sanitization and hygiene in the school according to the local need.
Aekta Chanda, Senior Education Specialist, ChildFund India says, “In India, educational vulnerability is overlapped with socio-economic disadvantage. Reopening schools is a serious concern in the background of already lacking basic infrastructure of the public provision of school education in India, which is the only option available to cater to the educational needs of children from marginalized communities. It is important to understand the perceptions of various stakeholders before re-opening schools, to plan the process in an inclusive manner, because this group was worst impacted due to temporary closure of schools and the increased emphasis on online mode of education available during the pandemic. With this report, we hope to support the education system to be better prepared to welcome the children back with the reopening of schools.”

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