Homeschooling during COVID-19 Lockdown: A privilege of the educated class

Online classes in Covid-19 lockdown

Complete Lockdown during Coronavirus outbreak has intensified the already existing economic crisis in India. While the financial impact of the lockdown on the survival of daily wage laborers has been highlighted by the policymakers and media, the consequences of the lockdown on the children of the uneducated, unorganized sector workers have received relatively less attention.

According to UNESCO, more than 160 countries have executed national lockdown, thus affecting 80% of the students due to the closure of educational institutions. The United Nations has said that the global scale and speed of the educational disruption from the coronavirus epidemic is “unparalleled”.

In the first week of March 2020, the Delhi government ordered a complete closure of all public and private primary schools in Delhi NCR till March 31st. Hence, classes in the Indian capital have been suspended for almost a month, affecting more than two million children.

Schools deliver structure and support for families and communities. Human resource development has a huge impact on the entire economy of a nation. Closing the schools for months can have unspeakable repercussions for the children of the working class.

Digital divide

Online classes have been implemented as an alternative to the physical presence of the students in schools. The uneducated class will struggle in handling digital technology and this will leave their children lagging behind in studies. Children belonging to the lower class are more prone to face technological hurdles apart from skill-based inefficiency such as slow internet connectivity. Uneducated parents will not be able to help their children in accessing and utilizing online classes due to digital illiteracy.

The burden of patriarchy

Some wealthy parents have enrolled their children in countries not or less affected by the Coronavirus epidemic. This has left domestic childcare helpers unemployed. Babysitters are short in supply and are unwilling to work outside their homes for childcare. Thus, the burden of household work, childcare, and other domestic responsibilities have fallen entirely on women as they are forced to stay at home.

The reach of the feminist discourse has limited impact on lower class people and traditional gender norms such as sexual division of labor is more prevalent in the uneducated population compared to the educated people. Thus, female children of uneducated parents will be pushed into domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning instead of being encouraged to focus on their studies.

Affording virtual educational assistance

Unorganized sector workers cannot afford online coaching for their children. They cannot teach their children on their own as they are uneducated. Using E-learning platforms is the only other way of homeschooling. There is some ray of hope as E-learning platforms are making themselves available to students for free.

For instance, Byju’s, an Indian online educational app has declared that its services will be free for students until the end of April. Toppr is another platform which has announced that its content is available to all students for free unconditionally. However, online education can only complement offline education and not replace it.

A UNESCO report earlier this month said that 290 million students across 13 countries could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization said that it is supporting distance learning programs to mitigate the situation. “We are working with countries to assure the continuity of learning for all, especially disadvantaged children and youth who tend to be the hardest hit by school closures,” said Audrey Azulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

Related: Shifting Family ethics in the times of Coronavirus outbreak

Manjima Misra is the author of two books -"Indian Feminine Fury" and "Unapologetically Mad". She has studied English literature at University of Delhi and will be pursuing her masters in gender studies.

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