Students attend classes at Kautilya Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in New Delhi on 18 January | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Students attend classes at Kautilya Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in New Delhi on 18 January 2021 | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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New Delhi: A week after schools reopened for classes 10 and 12 across Delhi, government school attendance has failed to pick up and local authorities now fear a rise in dropout rates.

Schools in the national capital reopened on 18 January after a 10-month-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were reopened only for classes 10 and 12 with strict masking and distancing guidelines in place.

However, in the past week, a large number of schools ThePrint spoke to have seen only 50-60 per cent attendance. This has raised concerns that a significant number of students have dropped out due to financial constraints.

A government school in Chattarpur claimed that over the last week they have seen only 50 per cent attendance in classes 10 and 12.

The staff told ThePrint: “We are trying our best to persuade parents to come back from their villages and send their students to school.”

The drop in school attendance has worried government officials as well.

According to Sant Ram, district secretary of northwest Delhi, who is incharge of over 50 schools in the area, the students who missed online classes are also the ones who have failed to show up for physical classes.

“While we have seen a continued trend of about 60 per cent attendance through the week, we observed that the same children who were unable to attend online classes are unable to come to school. We are worried that these students may have dropped out of school due to financial constraints as a result of the pandemic,” Ram told ThePrint.

Harish Singh Phalswal, southwest Delhi district secretary, noted that only 40 per cent students have attended schools in the district. However, he noted, students are reaching out to the school via phone calls.

“Only yesterday a student from Bihar called me and informed me of his situation. While he has been giving his unit tests online, we are trying to convince his parents to bring him back in time for his boards and pre-boards,” Phalswal told ThePrint.

Meanwhile, another district secretary, who did not wish to be named, said that the attendance of boys was much lower than that of girls.

Hinting at skewed gender roles, he said, “Boys are expected to help the family by aiding their income. This may have forced several male students to work and study simultaneously, or in the worst case, quit their education.”

Also read: How govt portal Diksha with ‘3 cr hits/day’ has become key tool for teachers during Covid

Students took up jobs, moved back to native villages

According to school teachers, students are working and studying to make ends meet.

Ajayveer Yadav, general secretary of the Government School Teachers Association, told ThePrint that the students who had taken up jobs were attending school for short durations.

He said: “Coming to school is voluntary as of now … students who have taken up jobs due to financial problems inform their teachers that they have jobs to attend and take their leave early. Our students who have gone back to their villages and are unable to come back due to financial struggles, are keeping in touch with us via phone calls.”

“The final determination of the number of dropouts will happen only when the pre-board examinations take place,” he added.

Meanwhile, attendance has improved in government schools in West Delhi with about 70-80 per cent students showing up. According to Anju Singh, district secretary, this is because of the daily counselling that teachers are offering students.

“Everyday our teachers make phone calls to students who are not attending classes. Some of them have to explain the importance of school education to parents who have moved back to their native places. It is because of this, last week several parents promised to come back to Delhi,” Singh told ThePrint.

According to a report by the Institute of Statistics, UNESCO, about 240 lakh children across 180 countries may not return to education due to the distress caused by the pandemic.

Of these countries, students in south and west Asian countries are at the highest risk, it noted.

Also read: Can’t go back to classroom-only teaching, ‘blended learning’ is the future, say experts


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