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25% out of school children may never return to school post-pandemic: RTE Forum

By Our Representative
In a scary scenario, a Right to Education (RTE) Forum programme has been told that, post-pandemic, “the number of out of school children may increase manifold”, with more than “25 per cent of them may never return to school.” Ambarish Rai, national convener, RTE Forum, said, girls are likely suffer the most. 
As compared to boys, Rai said, fewer girls have no access to online education, they are compelled to engage not only in domestic work, many of them are “becoming victims of child labour, trafficking and child marriage”, adding, “News coming from all over the country indicates a very bleak scenario ahead with the increasing cases of mental trauma and depression.”
Rai said this at the online release of the National Factsheet on Girls’ Education, which highlights challenges emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for gender-responsive strategies. Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), speaking on the occasion, said, only real data enables one to “go ahead for solutions.”
According to Rai, “The Covid-19 pandemic has badly impacted the different sections of the society. Schools and other educational institutions are closed since March and millions of children are affected with almost all learning activities and studies at halt. Children from marginalized communities, especially girls are facing an acute crisis.”
Underlining the need to have more public resources to overcome the crisis and taking up universalisation of education as a priority, Rai said, the allocation to education sector should be enhanced accordingly in this emergency situation. “In this critical situation, the government must take urgent call to address various infrastructural issues, recruitment of well- trained teachers, providing separate and functional toilets for boys and girls, safe drinking water and sanitary facilities.”
The factsheet says that the extended school closure has impacted 320 million children across India, impacting girling disproportionately. “Latest research suggests that as many as 20 million secondary school aged girls around the world may not return to schools, once they reopen, as a result of increased poverty, household responsibilities”, the document claims.
The document underlines that even before the pandemic, girls were twice as likely as boys to have less than four years of education, adding, the pandemic will further exacerbate the crisis. Loss of livelihood of thousands of families will increase the risk of girls discontinuing their education and fall prey to child marriage, child labour, trafficking and sexual abuse.
Seeking a multi-pronged gender-responsive strategy, the Fact-Sheet recommends developing diverse distant learning materials, making secondary education free through extension of RTE Act 2009, ensuring budget allocation for education reaches minimum 6% of GDP at the earliest, ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools, and building gender responsive contingency plans.

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