Child Education

Education is among the most crucial determinants of a better tomorrow for an individual, a community, or a country. As schools across India prepare to welcome children back to classrooms during the next academic year, it is very important to assess the learning gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic and bridge the same.  While many children, especially from underprivileged backgrounds, have suffered significant learning losses, some creative measures have helped bridge the gap in some parts of the country.

Child Education For Poor

Mohalla classes are one such widely acclaimed approach that offers supplementary classes for children in the 6-14 years age group. Such approaches can bridge the learning gap and make sure that out-of-school kids become part of the formal education system.  While the more affluent among India’s 250 million children continued their classes online during the Covid-19 lock down, it was the end of the road for the less privileged. Only one in four children in India has access to digital devices and the internet, according to UNICEF.

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“Online education is beyond the reach for children from marginalized communities,” said siddharam, Programme Coordinator, who runs several mohalla classes in many districts across the state. 

Various states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have recognized Mohalla classes, with organizations like leading the initiative. Many alone runs more than 50 mohalla classes in seven intervention districts in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and More.

Running A Mohalla Class

Mohalla classes are in-person classes conducted in the community set up with the help of community mobilizers and volunteers. They spend 2-3 hours daily teaching children in the 6-14 age group. Once the district coordinators realize the considerable learning gap and identify the need in the neighborhood for the Mohalla class, they begin sensitizing children and community members about the importance of education.  “There are days when our team members spend the first 30 minutes gathering children because some are playing and others are away for work with their parents,” said Paramesh, district programme officer. “Although we try to cater to a specific age group, it does mean that we refuse children outside that bracket. Each child willing to attend the classes is welcome,”.

Challenges On The Path Of Education

It’s not all learning and playing while gathering children for Mohalla classes. It’s hard to explain the idea to stakeholders, especially in the initial months, because continuing education was not the primary concern for families against the backdrop of deaths and loss of livelihood. “These are not urban centres where it is usual for school kids to go for tuition classes. Supplementary classes or bridge courses are alien concepts for most people here,” said kumar Baiyappa. The pandemic left many Indian families without a breadwinner with more than five lakh deaths. About 10 million migrant workers returned to their native towns and villages during the pandemic, with their families, many of them permanently. Experts worry that this reverse migration and unemployment may keep millions of children in India permanently out of the education system. Adolescent girls in India, comprising 11 per cent of India’s population, form the invisible group that has borne the worst of the pandemic-induced school shutdowns. Over 10 million young girls are at the risk of being left out of schooling entirely and their futures changed irrevocably. A large number of adolescent girls have already disappeared from the education system, pushed into domesticity and child marriages, never to return to school again. Moreover, a majority of families in the intervention districts are not keen to invest in girl child education.

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