Headline, February 08 2022/ ''' '' INDIA'S HOPES INVERT '' ''' : EDUCATION



''FOR THE PEOPLE OF INDIA : IT IS NOTHING BUT A MASTER tragedy, because education is the only path leading out of the darkness and miseries of rural poverty.''

EVEN BEFORE the pandemic, India's education system was woefully inadequate, with many public schools in rural areas short of teachers and books. Fewer than half of the students possess the reading and math skills to progress to the next grade.

Now India's spending on education - already far lower than in wealthier countries - has been slashed  even more. According to the World Bank, government spending on education fell from 4.4 percent of G.D.P. in 2019 to 3.4 percent in 2020.

Even before the pandemic, India was failing to keep up with the millions of new workers entering the job market each year : Growth was not translating into job creation.

''It's not that we were doing really well on the way to the demographic dividend before Covid,'' Mr. Muttreja said.

It might be about to get a lot worse. The World Bank estimates that India stands to lose as much as $440 billion in future earnings potential in the aftermath of the pandemic.

UNTIL the pandemic, India was pulling millions of people out of poverty, planning its hopes for greater economic growth on education. 

The building block for the future is now eroding, threatening to upend India's hard-fought progress and condemn another generation to manual, off-the-books labor.

''In India, the numbers are mind-numbing,'' said Poonam Muttreja, head of the Population Foundation, an advocacy group in New Delhi. ''Gender and other inequalities are widening, and we'll have much more of a development deficit in the years to come.

Many countries are weighing the trade-offs between children and education and public health. As Omicron has spread across the United States and Europe, officials have struggle to figure out how and when to keep schools open.

In South Asia, Sri Lanka has decided against closing schools, while in Nepal, classrooms are shut until at the least of the month, despite the near impossibility of remote instructions in the Himalayan countryside.

Swamped with new infections, Bangladesh reversed an earlier decision to allow vaccinated pupils to attend class, closing schools down for all students.

The repercussions can be especially dire in South Asia. Girls are entering into child marriages, and boys have abandoned their education to work.

The Rev. Nicholas Barla, a Catholic priest, who has spent decades working with schools in rural communities, said that during recent travels to remote corners of India, he saw children reeling from boredom and isolation.

''The mental growth that should have taken place stopped,'' he said. ''It is tragic, because education is the only path leading out of darkness and the miseries of rural poverty.''

India's working age-population is projected to peak at 65 percent in 2031 before it begins to decline. It's a potential asset that India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has celebrated, as recently as last month.

''The strength of the youth will take India to greater heights,'' he declared at a youth festival.

Typically a large share of the popu;ation entering the work force would be an economic boon. Now it could prove a burden, as undereducated and under employed people in a welfare state like India end up consuming a large share of resources, like free medicine and subsidies.

The ranks of the unemployed are already swelling in India's capital, New Delhi, which draws young people from villages across the country seeking economic opportunity.

Many of them sleep on the sidewalks, warm themselves next to big pots of boiling chai and stand every morning at a designated pickup place for days laborers.

In a gritty corner in the old part of the city litterered with clay teacups and spent cigarettes, Briju Kumar jostled with dozens of others hungry for a day's work at a construction site, at 14, he abandoned online studies during a partial lockdown last year to contribute to the family's finances.

''If schools open, I'm not sure I will go back. Only if there is no work,'' he said.

His family migrated from Bihar, one of India's poorest states, when Briju was in the fifth grade so that his father, who never attended school, could earn more money driving an auto rickshaw.

Intermittent lockdown forced Mr. Kumar off the roads and his son out of school.

During the pandemic, young workers have been most affected when lockdowns and other economic disruptions have occured, facing higher job losses and less financial support, according to a study by the International Labor Organization.

In the years ahead, even if a rebound in economic growth creates new jobs, there may not be enough qualified employees to fill them.

''At the beginning of the pandemic, it was digital, digital, digital, which is fine if you're a middle-class, urban child,'' said Terry Durnnian, UNICEF's education chief in India. But if you're talking about rural children, children with disabilities, migrant children, tribes - they lose out,'' he said.

''The learning loss is huge,'' he added. ''Children are not getting skills or knowledge to move forward in life.''

Remote education has been offered widely in India, but four out of 10 students lack the necessary Internet connectivity to attend. And online teaching, particularly in public schools, has been largely available only for older students.

Across India, 1.5 million school closings have affected 247 million children in elementary and secondary schools, according to UNICEF study. And as the pandemic drags on, more and more students have dropped out.

A survey of 650 households in the eastern Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune found that enrollment in virtual preschools dropped by 40 percent as of last summer, compared with before the pandemic.

To sum, with schools closed, more children are also going hungry. Many families rely on free school lunches to help meet their children's nutritional needs.

The Sadness of this publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks The New York Times and Suhasini Raj.

With respectful and caring dedication to Parents, Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of India, and then the world. See Ya all. prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com. and Twitter - E-!WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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