lørdag 28. august 2021

Covid-19: The Indian children who have forgotten how to read and write

Radhika Kumari holds her chalk with determination, almost willing the letters out of her mind onto the black slate. But they tumble out slowly and she misidentifies many of them. Radhika is trying to write the Hindi alphabet, a simple task for most 10-year olds. But, she says, she is struggling because it has been 17 months since she attended a class, online or offline.

Like everywhere else in India, schools have remained shut since March last year when the country went into lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Affluent private schools and their students switched to online classes seamlessly, but government-run schools have struggled. And their students - often with no laptops or smartphones and patchy access to the internet - have fallen behind.

In Jharkhand, a largely tribal, poor state where Radhika lives, this digital divide is stark. Her family is Dalit (formerly untouchable) and at the bottom of a deeply discriminatory Hindu caste system - as is most of the village. There is no internet in her tiny village in Latehar district. Government or state-owned broadcasters have been running educational shows in some states but that's still inaccessible for many communities.