Closure Of Schools Due To COVID-19 Impacted 24.7 Crore Children In India: UNICEF Report

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Closure Of Schools Due To COVID-19 Impacted 24.7 Crore Children In India: UNICEF Report

The report has found that the closure of 1.5 million schools due to the imposition of lockdown amid pandemic impacted 24.7 crore children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India.

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Closure of 1.5 million schools due to the imposition of lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic impacted 24.7 crore children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in India, a United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report has revealed.

The report has discarded online education as the option for all due to limited connectivity. The report said that only one in four children have access to digital devices and internet connectivity. It also stated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 24 per cent of households in India had access to the internet, and there existed a large rural-urban and gender divide.

According to UNICEF, over 60 lakh girls and boys were already out of school even before the COVID-19 crisis began. It pointed out that as of now, only eight States/UTs have opened all classes from class 1 to class 12, eleven states have reopened classes 6-12, and fifteen states have opened classes 9-12.

"It has been nearly a year since the pandemic caused schools to close. We know that the longer children stay out of school, the more vulnerable they become, with fewer chances of returning to school. Any decision to reopen schools is made with the best interests of children in mind, and as schools reopen in a staggered manner with children returning to their classrooms, we must strive to support them in catching up on the learning they have missed," Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative, said.

Haque said this is especially true for those who could not access digital or remote learning opportunities. He said that to improve children's mental health and well-being, psychological and social support from teachers, parents, and caregivers should be prioritised.

The Ministry of Education has finalised guidelines drafted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for the safe reopening of school after the pandemic. The guidelines emphasise regular handwashing and safe hygiene practices by students, teachers and other school staff and sanitisation of schools, along with required supplies and facilities as well as physical distancing strategies.

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