. The pandemic has impacted the education of more than 300 million children — more than 10 million children are in the age group of three to six years across India — due to temporary closure of education facilities across India and the world. However, the right to quality, inclusive and safe education should not be undermined even during emergencies. The longer children and youth are unable to attend learning facilities, the more likelihood of their failing to return to their institutions, especially girls, and the most marginalised, such as children on the move, children forced to live on the streets, children in tribal areas, children in peri urban areas and those from low-income households. While it is hard to predict, the closure of learning facilities closures could last up to a year.
There is no dispute that the closure of learning facilities, including anganwadis, is an effective measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, some caveats should be in place. In India, the anganwadi are also known as “khichdi ghars” — they provide food that in many cases is the only meal that children from most marginalised communities receive. Closure of education facilities also means no nutrition for children from 0- 6 years. That means our plans need to now take account of such situations that affect the children’s well-being.
During the lockdown, even in the current times, when the anganwadis are closed, parents are the best facilitator for children’s learning. But many of them struggle to perform this task. This could be due to their limited education level or scarce resources at their disposal. The problem becomes graver for children from marginalised families. Parents and children require support through varied means of communication such as social media platforms, local media and community radio stations.