POST TIME: 20 July, 2020 01:34:04 PM
Impact of Covid-19 on education
Having a mobile phone is not sufficient since only 37.6 per cent of the households have internet access at home. Again, in the rural areas the percentage decreases considerably
Gargi Das

Impact of Covid-19 on education

According to the UNESCO data, at present more than 1 billion students are affected worldwide due to the pandemic while educational institutions are closed in 109 countries. In Bangladesh since 17 March, all the educational institutes have remained closed. More than 40 million students have lost their connection with their regular education and a large number of these students may never return to school due to the arising financial crisis. If there are no precautionary measures taken to solve this situation then the country has to face an irrecoverable loss in educational sector.
The effects of Covid-19 on education sector need immediate solution. The stagnation of the education system has given rise to many problems.
First, due to the closure of the educational institutions, students have lost their regular connection with academic curriculum. Though distant learning measures are adopted through television and internet, the effectiveness of the procedure remains a “burning question.” Since there is not even a single mobile phone or television in many of the households let alone internet access. According to the report of MICS 2019, television is available in only 50.6 percent houses and there are around 4.1 per cent of the households without a single mobile phone. However, having a mobile phone is not sufficient since only 37.6 per cent of the households have internet access at home. Again, in the rural areas the percentage decreases considerably. This immense digital divide is an obstacle to the distant learning.
Moreover, many pre-scheduled exams are now pending until an uncertain period. The higher secondary exam, which was to be held on1April, is yet to see alight of hope for a new date. Again, the institutional exams are pending with thousands of students waiting for promotion of year or graduation. Therefore, there will be an acute session jam in the institutions.
Secondly, because of the economic crisis many people have lost jobs or faced some decrement in their salary. The families have become unable to maintain the school fees. As a result, many private educational institutions are now facing difficulties to survive. They are running out of funds and asking for fees. The institutions have become incapable of paying salary to the staff. The situation is worsening now as a few schools have already decided to be sold out which will result in an uncertainty of these students and teachers future.
Another worry is that, child labour has increased in the recent time to come over the existing economy crisis. A research conducted by SANEM based on the latest Household Income Expenditure Survey (HIES) shows that before the crisis, 23.90 per cent of the students families were below the poverty line and  after the crisis as many as 43.90 per cent of the students' families could fall below the poverty line. A total number of students below the poverty line could reach 16 million by the end of the pandemic. Some studies show that a one-percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 per cent increase in child labour. After the crisis, the poverty-stricken families will not be able to afford the costs of education anymore. Many students have already started working to maintain their family and they will not return once the institutions re-open.
Abdul Hamid, country director of Education and Development Foundation of Bangladesh said, "With the economic cost of this crisis, we fear that thousands of children will not be able to go back to school even when the situation returns to normal and schools are open again, because families will need this extra income to survive”.
An additional issue that has appeared to add fuel to the fire is child marriage. Child marriage has significantly increased in the meantime. According to the survey of Manusher Jonno Foundation 462 girls became victim of child marriage in the month of June which is higher than the usual. Closure of institutions and insolvency has a vital role in this rise. The financial aid for the girls in the form of government scholarship has stopped in this time. Poor parents not being able to feed another mouth are secretly marrying off their daughters amid this disaster. After marriage, most of the girls are likely not to study further. They would rather be engaged in managing family, which will increase the number of dropouts.
The government and the concerned authorities should response to this alarming situation as soon as possible. In this situation, the only way to teaching is distant learning through television or online. To ensure this access for the underprivileged the government or the institutions should sanction scholarship to buy required device and data. Considering the frequent load-shedding and poor network Facebook live or YouTube live should be preferred instead of high data consuming Zoom application. To avoid session jam adopting open book exams will be fruitful rather promotion to upper class without any exam. Keeping the students engaged will secure their mental health too.
In order to maintain the private schools, the government should raise fund and order them not to ask for fees until a certain period.
To prevent child labour in present situation social protection for the poor families, easier access to credit for their households, elimination of school fees, and more labour inspections and law enforcement are required.
In order to discourage child marriage providing financial aid to the poor families will be effective. Running campaigns to create awareness, enforcement of law and actions to provide the pending scholarship money for school will be helpful.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has collapsed the entire education system. However, we cannot just sit idle and digest its damages. Students are the future leader of a nation while teachers are the creators of these leaders. No matter what, we cannot afford to lose them. The government must come forward and act promptly to deal with the difficulties of the situation and contain the dropouts and save the schools.
The writer is a student of department of law, University of Rajshahi