During corona pandemic it is more important to feed the hungry children before ensuring equal Rights to Education
Is there a choice between hunger and education? Not actually. But the politics does not tread on the obvious lines. Only the compulsions guide choices in politics. This time it seems it is a political compulsion for education when there are other important areas to look after, of health and food for children.
When India starts opening up after lockdown, government appears too keen on opening up the schools despite an unrestrained surge of Corona virus in the country. Concerns are being raised by the teachers amidst wide-spread criticism by the experts and protests by the parents.
Parents’ associations have come together and signed an online petition and plan to knock the doors of the court against government’s eagerness to open the schools.
Circumstances following over two months of lockdown in India pressed the need to make a difficult choice, between education and hunger. When the schooling went online it was not an easy choice for many children. Children of poor and economically weaker families either had no means for online education or there were those who had only one task at hand, to help families arrange for the daily food, to stand under the naked skies bracing Indian summer and wait for their turn to collect the food packets.
There was this question of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ which started propping up in the arguments of courts which were approached by the NGO pleading for right to equality in education. Right to education was the argument when court summoned many schools of Delhi and questioned whether they were ensuring that poor students were being facilitated at par with their rich counterparts.
Schools-under compliance for right to education should provide free education to the 25 per cent poor category students, on their part pleaded that it is the duty of the government to provide free facilities for (in this case online) education under ‘right to education’. The government had no answer or may be the ‘will’, hence made this easy choice in difficult times, to open up schools.
During these tough times it is easiest to take a decision to open up schools but corona pandemic throws critical protocols which are compulsions as well as necessacity without which schooling isn’t possible. In spite of the SOP (special operative procedures) for running the schools during covid 19 it is extremely difficult to follow these despite best of the efforts.
India has contrasting social disparities which makes it difficult to make a uniform policy for any sector. When, for private schools online teaching appears easy, it can only be the choice of rich and well off and not the poor category students. For public schools the priority is not only the education. Bringing the poor to the schools is the biggest challenge for public schools not to mention the importance and management of mid-day meals.
In times of crises poor have only one job, to look for the food, even the shelter takes the back seat. The question is not only about facilities for education. It is about the choosing education when the poor have hunger as the priority.
The government is definitely trying to shun its responsibility of providing equal opportunities by not committing to provide facilities for online education for poor students. The decision brings in more troubles while putting children in a vulnerable spot when corona has shown no sign of receding.
At this time when health is the biggest challenge in front of the country, the debate should not be on the right to education but on the ‘life first’ approach. When millions of poor children are struggling to get even a single meal a day, instead of investing the energies in maintaining corona protocols in schools it is vital to ensure every child is safe and is not hungry.
So, what should be the best bet? Can we prioritise health and delay the schooling for some time? Let’s invest in the future. let’s keep the children home and safe till we have cure for corona. Let’s ensure that the future of the country (children) are safe and well fed before they are ready to join school again.
Threat to children’s health if schools open during corona pandemic
(Compiled by Arti Arora, a Delhi based parent)
- Switching over from online teaching to classroom would be switching from an effective solution to a complex one during corona pandemic
- Classroom teaching during corona crises might lead to anxiety and fear in children and parents
- In terms of teaching-repetition of course would be waste of time, energy and resources. Managing odd-even roll number would be a challange
- Compulsory wearing of mask for long hours might create further health hazard and children can’t maintain the protocol of wearing and taking off of masks
- ensuring social distancing in school premises and school buses would be difficult
Some possible Solutions
- let the schools deal with the particular issues if any with online classes without disturbing the entire online class
- options to be given to the parents who want to still opt for online schooling
- recording should be provided to the students who have problems in online connectivity
- school and government should try to reach out to individual students who belong to socially/financially weaker sections