fredag 28. januar 2022

After more than 600 days shut out, Delhi's students just want to go back to school

Dharini Mathur's son had just turned 4 when he started pre-school online. More than 600 days later, he still sits behind his computer screen, attempting to learn virtually -- while making zero contact with his classmates and teachers. He is one of more than 4 million children in India's capital, Delhi, forced out of the classroom because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ongoing mass closure, according to Mathur, is severely affecting their ability to learn. "Our little children have been out of school, no peer interactions," Mathur said. "This isolation, and the lack of development that comes with that, is really quite critical."

The Delhi government ordered schools shut in March 2020 when cases started creeping up across the country. They have remained largely closed for nearly two years. It is one of the world's longest school closures. And for a city with glaring disparities in development among its population, the prolonged learning loss has led to concerns it could increase poverty, reduce earning capacity, and result in mental and physical stress to millions.

In Delhi alone, hundreds of thousands of children from lower income communities -- who cannot afford laptops and live in cramped and unsanitary environments -- are at risk of being denied an education altogether.