Crammed up in the corner of their humble abode, four children cower over a
single mobile screen and lean into their notebooks to scrawl down whatever they
can make out from the constantly buffering lesson in their online school. The
previous lack of resources only found its way to the inability to purchase
books, but the pandemic had ensured additional obstacles to hinder the
educational rights of these children and countless others in the country. The
virus has impacted various aspects of life, yes and majorly impeded the paths of
the country's tomorrows today.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, also known as the
Right to Education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Indian Parliament enacted on
August 4, 2009, that outlines the modalities of the importance of free and
compulsory education for children aged 6 to 14 in India, as defined by Article
21A of the Indian Constitution. Initially, the right to education was not a
fundamental right and had been merely constituted as one of the Directive
Principles of State Policy in Article 45.
The directive in Article 45 did not
apply only to primary education; it also applied to offering free education to
children up to the age of 14, regardless of their educational level. The
86th Amendment Act, 2002 played a prominent role in bringing a reform into the
education-associated articles of the Indian Constitution.
Not only was 21A added
to Part III (fundamental rights) of the Constitution, Art. 45 was altered to add
early childhood care and the additional Art. 51A mandated the parents or
guardians to furnish opportunities for education of their children between the
age group of 6 to 14 years. Previously, the Supreme Court had already
established the right to education as an offshoot to the right to live in Mohini
Jain and Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh
Enter the pandemic. Among the countless countries that fell prey to the infamous
corona virus, India is also a victim to the callous treatment that the surge of
Covid-19 has meted out to its citizens. With a total of 2,14,85,285 cases and
2,34,071 deaths[ii] reported in the country, it is evident that imperative
aspects of life like schooling have currently taken a backseat.
pandemic, came the concept of online education. Not an entirely foreign concept,
saying that a country like India was unprepared for a situation like this would
be an understatement. In a place where one in every four children has access to
digital devices and internet connectivity[iii], online education
felt like a
jab to our developmental progress. In a recent 2017-18 survey, the Ministry of
Rural Development found that only 47% of Indian households receive more than 12
hours of electricity and more than 36% of schools in India operate without
To add on to the statistics, in India, 247 million children
studying in elementary and secondary schools were affected by the closure of 1.5
million schools due to a corona-virus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns in
2020.[v] The numbers are exceedingly large due to the lack of significant impact
India's development strides have had on the rural areas. Amenities have been
distributed, yes but basic requirements set aside the governments over the
years have failed to encompass the technological needs as necessary for the
Over the months, even though initiatives have been taken to
enhance learning opportunities for kids from rural backgrounds, what the people
in power forget is that the more they stay away from school, the more vulnerable
the idea of them coming back becomes.
In the recent times, the Union government has placed its burden majorly on the
Bharatnet project that is attempting to increase the availability of broadband
to 250,000-gram panchayats through optic fibre. While this is supposed to lend a
helping hand for digital education in those areas, the scope for actual
percolation of these policies to the underdeveloped regions is still immense.
Because not only do these regions require connectivity, training has to be
provided to the teachers and the students in regards with how to actually use
the system for an uninterrupted educational experience. There are also the PRAGYATA guidelines which were put forth by the Ministry of Education to provide
assistance with the different modes of digital education.[vi]
education ministry's budget for digital e-learning was cut from Rs 604 crore the
previous year to Rs 469 crore in 2020-21, the year Covid hit.[vii] The shift in
the budget would still be excusable if the money was actually being injected
into the betterment of the covid situation in the country. In times like these
where constructive policies and planning need to be executed to keep the wheels
of the country running, the government's organization skills have gone for a
Instead of meticulously compartmentalizing the country's budget for health
and education, the cash is being flowed into projects that are futile right now.
The same money can be branched out to actual families who are in dire need of
support, education and health should both be fastened to the front seat of the
government's plan. The cut for digital e-learning can always be restored given
the obvious funds that the central government had received to assist the
Covid-19 situation in the country.
Attempts need to be made to fasten the
programs that the government has introduced and making sure that the results of
the same actually reach the citizens who require them the most.
Education today, is significant beyond measure. Of course, it provides the child
lifetime opportunities in terms of a career but it also contributes to the
social and artistic growth and development of the student. Moral values are
inculcated, a generalized sense of good and bad is established. And something of
that level of substance is being side-tracked for so many students not only
India but globally as well. While certain countries have declared a zero
academic year because they made the choice of delay over quality of education
being compromised the Indian government is thoroughly engaged in electoral
gimmicks and testing the effectiveness of their orange blindfolds by displaying
utter indifference towards the harangue in the country.
Given the entirety of the situation, it is obvious that the blows that the
education statistics have received in the past year or so in the country cannot
be ignored. A country that was already struggling to lift its literacy rates has
now encountered a situation where its advancement has been thrown off course.
The government's accountability to its citizens surfaces in trying times like
these. Its ability to overlook a nation comes to light and quite frankly, it is
about time that we segregated the question of what are the government's apparent
plans and what roles the government actually will carry out.
- 1993 SCC (1) 645
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