76% of Indian Students Faced Learning Losses During Pandemic: UNICEF

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As many as 76 per cent of parents of children between the ages of 5–13 years, and 80 per cent of adolescents between 14–18 years, reported learning less due to extended closure of schools, as per a survey by UNICEF. Further, 10 per cent of students surveyed had no access to a smartphone in or outside of their homes.

The survey was conducted in six states in 2020 – Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, on the state of learning during the pandemic. It also found that around 45 per cent of the children who did not use any remote learning opportunities were completely unaware of any resource from which they could learn.

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On World Children’s Day, the Parliamentarians’ Group for Children (PGC) along with UNICEF India, hosted a ‘Children’s Parliament’ wherein students presented a nine-point ‘Charter of Demands’ to the Parliamentarians urging them to take actions to support their learning recovery . “With the safe reopening of schools across the country after more than a year, the children’s Charter of Demands focuses attention on safe school reopening as well as equitable access to online learning, reducing the size of the syllabus and prioritizing vaccination for children,” UNICEF said in an official notice.

The students demanded equal access to online learning for all by providing digital devices and a good internet connection. They also asked for free COVID-19 vaccination of children “so that we can freely interact, play and learn.” They also demanded reopening of schools with COVID-19 safety measures like vaccination, thermal screening, availability of masks in school, regular sanitization , and physical distancing.

They also asked the government to waive off the school fees for those from low-income backgrounds as well as to ensure streaming classes for children on television for those who don’t have access to online education. The children also demanded to reduce the size of the syllabus as children may face “difficulty in understanding concepts through distance learning, and it is much more time-consuming”.

“Including students in decision making at the school level. We demand to be treated as equal stakeholders in the school decision-making process, and the school authorities should create space for voicing our opinions and challenges,” the students said.

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Further, they demanded mid-day meals, creating awareness among school staff on COVID appropriate behaviour, training teachers on creative ways of online learning and supporting mental health issues of the students as well as bringing education policy changes in the COVID times.

Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Representative said “The global pandemic has impacted children in so many ways – education is a critical area, along with nutrition, immunization, mental and physical health, and protection of children. As we hope to recover from nearly two years of the pandemic that took away school education from countless children, it becomes essential to move forward with a plan for recovering education.”

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