Attendance low as students stay home to care for younger siblings

‘This is a big problem particularly for families who have migrated from rural areas’

Many students in upper primary and high schools hailing from lower economic sections of society are not attending physical classes as they are busy taking care of their younger siblings while their parents are at work. Lower primary classes have been closed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

“This is a major problem particularly for families who have migrated from rural areas as they have no other family support system. They cannot leave their younger children alone,” said Nagasimha G. Rao, director of Child Rights Trust (CRT). CRT is working with 21 families who are facing this problem. Child rights’ activists are worried that these children in the long run may drop out of school, or be made to work.

Non-governmental organisations and child rights’ activists are not the only ones to have flagged this. Various officials of the Department of Primary and Secondary Education have noticed this trend as well.

Fr. Antony Sebastian, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), said he saw several such instances during his field trips in north Karnataka.

“The pandemic has worsened the financial situation of people and the thought of providing education has taken a back seat in the minds of many parents. There is a lot of damage done by the pandemic, but to prevent more damage, lower primary classes need to be reopened immediately,” he said.

H.K. Manjunath, president of the High School Assistant Masters’ Association, said many families had not even completed the admission formalities for their children due to this reason. “Factors like this, child labour, and migration have lead to a dip in the attendance,” he said, adding that there was a need for the government to initiate measures to address this.

Stakeholders said that efforts need to be made to increase enrolment after offline classes for lower primary sections begin.

Minister for Primary and Secondary Education B.C. Nagesh on Monday announced that offline classes for Classes I-V will resume on October 21, along with mid-day meals.

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