The devastating impact of the long COVID lockdown has begun to emerge as schools reopen. Only a third of rural children had access to learning resources and support during this period. Only a quarter had access to online learning, because of limited smartphone availability. So it is no surprise that children from poor families, rural families, and first generation learners are the worst affected.
Asha Boston projects soldiered through the pandemic with efforts such as community learning centers in tribal hamlets (reaching about a third of the students from the school), focus on two wheeler driving and other activities to empower girls, procurement of devices to continue mentoring activities online, and more.
Now as schools reopen, challenges are many.
For high school students government guidelines require schools to complete the syllabus of the missed year in one month. An impossible task in the best of times, this is complicated by large class sizes and covid-related protocols. Individual attention enabled by Asha Boston projects is more important than ever, to help children make up for the lost year (class VIII or class IX ) as best as they can, and get ready for the all important class X exams (SSLC).
For younger children, the lost year has meant a regression in reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Asha Boston projects are focusing on re-learning these basics before starting work on catching up with the required syllabus.
In families with acute financial distress boys have become daily wage laborers, and girls have been married off. This has resulted in decreased attendance at study centers and schools run by our project partners. After near 100% enrollment and full community support for education in recent years, project partners have to again focus on efforts to bring everyone back to school. “It is as though we have gone back ten years,” says the principal at one school.
Other unexpected challenges are difficulties children face in focusing their attention in class, picking up of tobacco and other habits when they were out of school, and parents’ fear of COVID among their children (in India vaccination is not available for children under 18).
If we don’t act fast, the consequences of the lockdown will have a lasting impact on a generation.
Will you join us in our effort to do what we can to help?