A U-Report poll of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted in India on International Women’s Day 2022 revealed that around 38% of the respondents knew at least one female student who had dropped out of school.
The report by UNICEF India suggests that the increase in the dropout rate of girls from schools across the country is alarming.
With the number of COVID-19 cases on a decline, schools in India have resumed offline functioning. However, the multiple re-opening and closures of schools in the past two years had caused massive disruptions in the education of crores of schoolchildren.
It is reported that at the peak of the pandemic, around 24.7 crore schoolchildren were affected due to the closure. The digital divide in the country posed a problem for children who could not access remote learning when schools were closed. Children from low-income homes suffered the most as they faced the most difficulty in accessing remote learning.
The 2020-21 report by Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) revealed that the annual dropout rate of secondary school students was 14.6%.
Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Representative, fears that there is a risk of a “lost generation of children” who will never return to school and that the impact on female students is disproportionately worse.
“This is indeed a matter of grave concern. It is critical that we work towards transitioning all children back into learning. UNICEF is supporting the Government of India in back-to-school campaigns, awareness and outreach initiatives and learning recovery programmes at schools and in the communities. We must not only bring children back to school but also focus on putting strong remedial learning initiatives in place to ensure retention and continuity of learning,” added Kimura.
UNICEF is a body of the United Nations that works to reach the most disadvantaged children and protect their rights in over 190 countries and territories. In 2021, UNICEF India supported the government and partnering bodies in 17 states to provide technology that allowed 1.55 crore children, of which 50.5% were female, to continue learning from home.
UNICEF India also contributed to the efforts of the Union education ministry’s plans of reopening schools in 2022.