Following the pandemic, attendance of students in Jharkhand schools dropped to 58 per cent at the upper primary level and 68 per cent at the primary level, according to a report prepared by economist Jean Dreze. The report, prepared on the basis of a survey conducted in 138 state-run schools across 16 districts of the state, stated that 53 per cent of teachers admitted that students have forgotten how to read and write after the schools reopened following the pandemic.
"The survey showed that underprivileged and tribal children were left abandoned by the Education Department. The schools were closed for two years but nothing was done for them. The online education during the period was just a joke as 87 per cent of students in government schools had no access to smartphones," Dreze said.
Jharkhand Education Project Council (JPEC) director Kiran Kumari Pasi told PTI that the learning abilities of students, and attendance in schools have declined after the pandemic. "I don't want to comment on the survey as I haven't seen it. But, it is a fact that the learning abilities of students and attendance in schools have declined after the pandemic. We have taken various initiatives -- from promoting sports to recreation activities -- to bring students back to schools. The situation is improving now," she said.
JPEC is an autonomous body set up by the Jharkhand government for universalisation of primary education. While classes 1 to 5 form primary level of education, classes 6 to 8 comprise upper-primary level. The survey -- 'Gloom in the Classroom: The Schooling Crisis in Jharkhand' -- conducted by Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (Jharkhand) also found an acute shortage of teachers.
Only 20 per cent of upper-primary schools and 50 per cent of primary schools have a teacher-student ratio of less than 30, as prescribed under the Right to Education Act (RTE), the report prepared by the Belgian-born economist along with researcher Paran Amitava stated. Out of the 138 schools surveyed for the report, 20 per cent had a single teacher, it said.
At 55 per cent, para-teachers accounted for the majority of teachers at the primary level in these schools. At the upper-primary level, the figure was 37 per cent, it added. About 40 per cent of primary schools surveyed were run by para-teachers. "Para-teachers have lower qualifications and less training than regular teachers, and it is doubtful if they are more accountable," Dreze said, adding that no teacher recruitment was done in the last six years in the state.
Not one of the schools surveyed had a functional toilet, electricity or water supply, the report claimed. Around 66 per cent of the primary schools had no boundary wall, 64 per cent did not have a playground and 37 per cent had no library books, it said. Majority of the teachers said that the school did not have adequate funds for the midday meals, it mentioned.