By Mr. Mitesh Ravishankar
The COVID 19 pandemic has created an adverse effect in student’s prospects. This has made all the educational institutions across the world to adopt virtual teaching. Education is the most powerful tool which helps students to mould their career and it should be made accessible to all the students. Due to the pandemic all the institutions are closed, but some private institution which could afford virtual teaching. Most of the children around the world has been disrupted from learning. Government is using remote learning programs, through the Television, radio and internet or combination of such to enlighten the students but this could only support the who have access to gadgets and strong internet connection. Students who have no access to such technology or students who have visually challenged or hearing impaired cannot be made benefited by such program.
Intersectionality with poverty, gender, ethnicity, age, disability or other identities can result in multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion.[i] This has created an inequality and marginalised the students.
Right to education in India
Right to education is a fundamental human right which is recognised, promoted and protected by the constitution of India and also by various International bodies. The right to education flows from the enforceable right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, as there could be no dignified enjoyment of life, or the realization of other rights, without adequate education.[ii] The right to education should also be understood in the context of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 45 provides that the State should endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, free and compulsory education for all children under the age of fourteen.[iii]
The state further amended the Constitution in 2002 and incorporating Article 21A. Subsequently, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was enacted. This legislation casts a legal obligation on the Central and state governments to ensure that the fundamental right enshrined under Article 21A is protected.
Since then the courts in India have widened the scope of right to education in India, Kerala High court declared that the right to have access to internet is an integral part of the right to education under Article 21.[iv] Constitution further ensure equal access to education of ‘satisfactory’ and ‘equitable’ quality to all children, without any discrimination.
The digital divide
This digital divide may be attributed to multiple factors – lack of infrastructure in terms of access to internet, absence or dearth of computers in schools, inability of underprivileged students to procure computers, and lack of digital literacy amongst both teachers and students.[v]
The Annual Status of Education Report (Rural), 2018 revealed that in 596 government schools belonging to 619 districts, only 21.3 per cent of students had access to computers in their schools.[vi] The Government of India’s ambitious Bharat Net program to connect more than 6 lakh villages through 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks with high-speed Internet is also far from achieving its targets. In April 2020, according to the Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) website, the government has been able to roll out equipment to only a little over half of the targeted gram panchayats. Of these, many have been reported to be non-functioning networks. Only 8.33 percent of all gram panchayats have service ready Wi-Fi hotspots.[vii]
The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) has certify 6 crore individuals as “digitally literate” in rural India. By far, less than 50 per cent of the 6-crore target have been trained and only a third of those who have been trained are certified. The national average of the students certified under the programme stands at an abysmal 36 per cent.
The national sample survey 75th round report -
Even if it is assumed that these numbers have doubled or tripled over the past 1-2 years, it would be fair to say that India largely remains digitally illiterate.[i]
Human right includes the right to life and healthy environment as it precise to taking all necessary measures by state to halt the spread of COVD-19. The state shall also have an obligation to provide a satisfactory and an indiscriminately education to all the children. It should bridge the gap of inequity among the students. The pandemic has created a common opportunity in education through technology-based learning. E- learning methods should be developed at a cheaper cost and should made more accessible. Government should take active interest developing more technologies and reach it to the less fortunate.
[i] Hanna Alasuutari, Tackling inequity in education during and after COVID-19, https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/tackling-inequity-education-during-and-after-covid-19 [ii] Mohini Jain V. State of Karnataka and Ors, 1992 AIR 1858. [iii] Unni Krishnan, JP & Ors. V. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., 1993 AIR 2178. [iv] Faheema Shirin.R.K vs State Of Kerala, W.P(C).No.19716/2019-L. [v] Mani Chander, Inequities and challenges surrounding access to education amidst COVID-19, https://www.barandbench.com/columns/inequities-and-challenges-in-access-to-education-amidst-covid-19 [vi] Ibid. [vii] Ibid. [viii] The national sample survey 75th round, (July 2017- June 2018) (75/25.2)/NSS KI (75/25.2)