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Unesco: Covid impact worsens India's educational divide

  • Published at 11:08 pm October 6th, 2021
India school
Students wearing masks attend their class under the trees as they maintain social distancing outside their school, in Srinagar September 30, 2020 Reuters

Nearly 70% of students lacked smartphones or other devices to access classes online

India's school closures and its children's lack of smartphone and internet facilities amidst the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened an educational divide, the UN cultural agency said, flagging risks to young people's futures.

About 248 million students were hit by school closures since March last year, Unesco said in a report, though many Indian states have started easing curbs as infections dwindled and vaccinations rose in the last two months.

Nearly 70% of students lacked smartphones or other devices to access classes online, while a majority grappled with poor Internet facilities, or none, especially in rural areas, it added.

"There is an urgent need to plan to get students and their teachers back to school," the agency said in its report on education in India issued on Tuesday.

Almost 40% of parents could not afford internet costs, affecting learning, and widening the educational gap between different parts of society, it said in the report, based on government data.

Worst-hit were private schools that receive no government grants, but where many poor families aspiring for a better education send their children, as parents found themselves unable to pay fees after the reduced economic activity.

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