In India, COVID-19 school closure, and related challenges with distance learning have taught us that we must liberate learning from outdated curriculum that emphasise on one-sided information transfer. The quick shift to online teaching forced the reluctant schools and teachers to adapt to e-learning. Unfortunately government ignored the already existing digital divide embedded with gender and class divides as well as plight of ill paid teachers upon whom the impact of school closure is worst. The decision of sudden closure brought along with it the problems of pay cuts, and loss of jobs for teachers; it clearly hints at increasing insecure employment in education.
The pandemic COVID-19 has made all the educational Institutions across the world to close down, disrupting the understood normal. Today confinement is the new world order. In India too not a single institution is safe from the deadly virus, forcing the state governments across the country to close down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the deadly virus. This sudden closure disrupted the Board examinations, school admissions, entrance tests and other competitive examinations in the institutions of education across the nation. It’s almost four months since then and there is no certainty when will the educational institutions reopen. As per the government’s economics watchdog, among all the sectors that are affected by Covid-19 crisis, the most affected is education sector, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future. This closure will surely affect the continuity of learning for more than 285 million young learners in schools and more than 20 million students in higher education. It will have long term negative consequences for the social and economic sectors. The economists have already warned 1.6 percent fall in India’s real GDP growth by FY21 and a rise in unemployment rate to 26.2 per cent in the third week of April 2020 amid lockdown. This pandemic will thus push millions of people to poverty, where it will be difficult for them to meet their basic needs, not to talk of education.
India entered its lockdown with a high unemployment level at 8.7%, while the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy stated that total unemployment was at a record high at 27% in early May. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates the loss of full-time jobs worldwide to be 305 million, in India, the total number of jobs likely to be impacted is 136 million. So this situation very well explains the plight of education sector, which receives only 4.6 percent of GDP, lower than many developing nations. If the lockdown continues for few more months there could be severe job losses. Even though the government made the announcement that it is a precondition that there are no layoffs and all the teaching and non-teaching staff get salary in these difficult times. But to the contrary, employers have removed the temporary staff, as the revenue through fee income is at risk. Those in job, among them more than half of staff are vulnerable in insecure employment. There are great chances of the temporary teacher’s vacancies (e.g. Vidyasahayak teachers and temporary assistant professors) in schools and universities might continue to remain unfulfilled. In the lockdown when the Education Minister called upon parents to submit their questions to be addressed in a webinar, several teachers directed their salary woes at the Minister. Some teachers also emphasized that since the lockdown, they have been working harder than before to make sure students do not lose their academic year. They have had to learn the modalities of teaching online and are working tirelessly. They were anxious as how will the Administrators pay their staff, if schools are closed and parents do not pay fees. It is high time that government come out with strategies for this sector, only then these unprecedented challenges would be met.